Estadio Santiago Bernabeu,Madrid
20.02.2011, 00:30 IST
After an amazing fight and victory against Espanyol, Real Madrid welcome Levante to their home. It could have been disastrous for Real Madrid after Iker Casillas got sent off in the early minutes but Madrid fought hard and secured a well deserved victory and managed to close down the gap with the Catalan giants to 5 points. Real Madrid would love to see more slip ups from Barcelona and close down the gap as much as possible before the next Classico as Barcelona face a tough task of overcoming Athletic Club this week.
The coming week is going to be very eventful for Real as they will face Lyon in their Champions League knock out match midweek and Mourinho has already visited the Stade de Gerland stadium to watch Lyon play. Mourinho might be ready with his strategy and might use the match against Levante to try few things before the big test. Last year’s loss is on every Madridista’s mind and the fans are looking forward for a more clinical display by Los Merengues.
After the El Clasico its been the first time Madrid are playing ahead of Barcelona and would look to win in style and impose pressure on the Catalan giants with their result. Also, it will be a historic occasion for Mourinho when he takes charge at the Santiago Bernabéu as this match would mark the completion of an amazing 9 years unbeaten streak at home for the Portuguese. Speaking on this, Mourinho said, “I don’t do anything to keep my undefeated home record. If we happen to be drawing the game with 15 minutes to go tomorrow, I will not try to keep that result in order to keep my record. I want to win the match. I don’t want to think about records. It means nothing to me next to the points we can take at home because these may produce titles. That’s what matters.“
Team News and Tactical brief:
In what seems to be a rest for Pepe before the Lyon clash, Mourinho has left out Pepe from the first squad and has confirmed that he would be starting with Ramos, Albiol, Carvalho and Marcelo. Speaking about his defensive options Mourinho said, “I will make two changes to my lineup tomorrow, but they won’t be very important. The main structure and quality of the team will remain. Albiol will take Pepe’s place, but this isn’t new. I’m just trying to protect a player who hasn’t played for a month. I will use Sergio, Albiol, Carvalho and Marcelo in defence. I’m making changes without really changing anything at all.”
It is a bit stifling because Arbeloa has been in fine form and Garay looked more assured than Albiol against Real Sociedad. Real Madrid will miss the services of their captain, Iker Casillas as Real Madrid’s appeal against the red card to Iker has been upheld and he would miss this game. This will prove a great stepping stone to the reserve keeper, Antonio Adan, who displayed maturity in his first appearance for Madrid in the league against Espanyol pulling off fine saves to keep Real Madrid in control of the match. It is sure that he would be making his first start in a Real Madrid shirt. It has been the culmination of 14 years of hard work by the youngster in the Real Madrid youth system.
The midfield has been quite flexible with Khedira and Lass both doing their respective jobs beside the ever reliable Xabi Alonso. It would be interesting to see who starts with Xabi. Also amid reports that Ronaldo will be rested against Levante, Jose emphasized the importance of Ronaldo saying, “Cristiano Ronaldo will also play. I don’t think it’s necessary for him to rest because he’s strong and very important to us. I will give him time off when I think he should rest.” Ozil and DiMaria are sure to start beside the Portuguese star. The striker position is a bit of toss up between Adebayor and Benzema. Benzema scored a wonderful hat trick against Levante just before the Christmas break and would be ideal to start the game having been on the bench from the past couple of weeks.
Probable starting line up: Adan, Ramos, Albiol, Carvalho, Marcelo, Lass, Xabi, Ozil, Ronaldo, Di maria, Benzema
A humiliating defeat just before the Christmas break will be on Levante’s mind when they visit Santiago Bernabeu with Caicedo admitting, “It’s a league game, it’s something different and hopefully the result isn’t repeated, We have to go there with the anger of the 8-0 loss, which we haven’t forgotten.” And midfielder Vicente Iborra seconded, “We’re going there with pride a little wounded, nobody likes to be humiliated like they did to us.We’re going to try and improve the image that we gave there.“
But the coach of Levante, Luis Garcia claims players have already forgotten about their 8-0 which seems a bit contradictory. In his own words, “It is true that they put eight past us, but that is forgotten, it was the worst I’ve experienced, it is very hard when you concede eight goals. But if you go there looking forward to returning the favour, which is impossible, it can often be worse. It is normal that we regretted the 8-0 at the time.”
Levante werent having a very good time until recently they notched up important wins with the most significant one being against Villarreal the previous week. It must have been a huge boost to the Levante players to beat a Champions League aspiring team and would certainly be in good spirits as they take the field at the Bernabeu.
Jose Mourinho echoed the same sentiments. Speaking after the training session he said, “Levante are a dangerous team. We’ve faced them three times this season and they’ve only lost against us once. They are having a good run and they recently defeated Villarreal. They are out of the relegation zone, they are dangerous and they are having a happy streak. Caicedo is a threat. He, Stuani and Jorda are dangerous on goal. They shoot well and they’re also good at heading the ball in.” It appears that Mourinho is not willing to take any risks and has done his home work well. Levante would be hoping that they don’t lose by a big margin.
Miguel Pallardo, Sergio Gonzalez and Gorka Larrea are all injured Javi Venta is suspended. So, Garcia does have some selection problems as well.
Probable Starting Lineup: Gustavo, DelHorno, Garcia, Nano, Ballesteros, Caceido, Stuani, Rocha, Cisco, Torres, Iborra
TheHardTackle Player to Watch Out For
The reserve goal keeper delivered a mature performance considering the situation Real Madrid were in against Espanyol. He was singled out for special praise by the coach, Jose Mourinho and even Iker Casillas. He would certainly be looking to make his first start for Real Madrid as memorable as possible.
Real Madrid 4 – 0 Levante
It would take nothing short of a breath taking performance from Levante to draw with Madrid and only a miracle to beat Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho at their home.