Estadi Ciutat de Valencia, Valencia
Sunday, November 11, 20:30 GMT
Real Madrid cannot afford any more slip -ups. These words will probably be repeated in every pre-match briefing which Jose Mourinho will hold with his team during the course of season. Unless Barcelona intend to do a dramatic U-turn from the top of the table, things are going to be out of Madrid’s hands for the rest of the season. The least they can do is to keep on pushing Barcelona and expect them to stutter at some point in time.
After the disappointing midweek draw with Borussia Dortmund, a match in which they were thoroughly outclassed in the first half, Real Madrid will need to quickly get their house in order, not just on the domestic front but on the European front as well. Needless to say the recent murmurs of Jose Mourinho’s rift with coach of Real Madrid Castilla and the Portuguese manager ignoring the youth academy graduates have done little good and Madrid will need to put in a strong performance against a tricky opponent who beat them at the same place at around the same time last year.
As for Levante, they would hope to pull off an upset. And they have their reasons, with the aforementioned being an obvious psychological advantage and the fact that they have been strong at home this season. Juan Martinez will be firing up his team for, if they can possibly achieve it, another memorable victory.
Team News and Tactical Brief
It has been a topsy-turvy start to the season for Levante, with their home form being as encouraging as their away form has been disappointing. Yet, they have managed to hold fort and continue their impressive show in the Spanish Primera Division, only a year into promotion, and sit comfortably at the sixth spot, a couple of places below Real Madrid. They would look to forget their disappointing form away and take heart from the fact that they have yet to be defeated at home this season, although this will decidedly be the sternest test of them all.
Manager Juan Martinez has no fresh injury concerns, with defensive midfielder Dariusz Dudka the only player who continues to sit out of the starting line-up. Like Real Madrid, Levante too were involved in Europe in midweek, playing their Europa league fixture against FC Twente away and unlike Madrid managed to rest some of their key players such as Obafemi Martins, who has been on song with his four goals so far with a memorable strike against Valencia, Juanfran, Jose Barkero and co. would make a return to the starting line-up. The form of Martins could prove to be the difference with Madrid’s back four along with the usually ever-reliable Iker Casillas having a shaky season.
Levante have been slightly suspect in midfield areas and have adopted mostly counter attacking style of play, something that they are certain to adapt against the weekend’s visitors, having already downed them last season on similar tactics. Levante would look to restrict Madrid in the wide areas and let them play through the middle, utilizing the space on the flanks. A suspect full-back department at Madrid might be of help here.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Munua; Lopez, Ballesteros, Navarro, Juanfran; Iborra, Diop; Zhar, Barkero, Juanlu; Martins
Real Madrid need to dust themselves up, after being found out against a spirited Borussia Dortmund side on Matchday 4 of Champions League. Knowing deep down that the task at hand would not be so difficult this time around, they travel to Levante with a considerately depleted squad. So much so, complacency cannot be allowed to kick in and Jose Mourinho would field his strongest available team.
Alvaro Arbeloa can be expected to make the starting line-up and even though Fabio Coentrao has started training, it is very unlikely that he will be match fit coming Sunday. Varane and Pepe would comprise the central defensive pairing, with Ramos and Arbeloa on either flanks. Varane has been nothing sort of a revelation and the 19 year old Frenchman must make these opportunities count. He surely is one for the future.
In the midfield, Luka Modric might not start the game after a disappointing performance against Dortmund. Apparently he was handed out a polite dressing down the other day as well. Michael Essien may adapt a familiar role in defensive midfield alongside Xabi Alonso, who returns after a one game suspension, with Sami Khedira still injured. Ozil will take up his familiar role behind the front three.
With both Benzema and Higuain out injured, Mourinho is all but certain to play Ronaldo as the centre forward with Jose Callejon and Di Maria on either wings. Kaka and even Alvaro Morata could come off from the bench should the need be. Since Levante would focus on counter attacking football, Madrid would do well to dominate as well retain position. The trickery of the likes of Ozil, Ronaldo and Di Maria will be the key to unlock Levante’s defense.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Casillas; Ramos, Varane, Pepe, Arbeloa; Essien, Alonso; Di Maria, Özil, Callejon; Ronaldo
Player To Watch Out For
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
It will be interesting to see him play in a different position than usual and with a dogged Levante pressing down and closing down spaces, his pace and skill might come in handy. He will be looking to put a less than average midweek display behind him as well. Real Madrid would be counting on him.
Levante UD 1-2 Real Madrid
Levante would almost certainly score, as they have done in every home game this season and due to a shaky Madrid backline. Even so, Madrid would be expected to win the game with the quality in the ranks and the fact that Mourinho would not let any sort of complacency kick in.
Blast From The Past