Ciudad de Valencia, Valencia
Oct 5, 2013; 18:00 GMT
Real Madrid are experiencing a lull at the moment. With Champions League qualification looking likely after a deserving victory against FC Copenhagen, they still need to sort out their league problems after an awful loss to Atletico Madrid. Before the Madrid derby, everybody was willing to let Ancelotti take his time in shaping this squad but the manner of defeat and a five point deficit to FC Barcelona and Atletico has raised concerns among the supporters.
There is no doubting Ancelotti’s pedigree but even his experience is being severely tested in bringing out the best from this talented set of individuals. The team lacks a clear identity and a suitable formation is still being worked upon. FC Barcelona’s transition under Tata Martino has been super smooth owing to a clear club philosophy where as Real Madrid under Florentino Perez appear to be heading in the Galactico era again – a super strong set of individuals who won’t fit together.
The jury is still out on the economics of Gareth Bale’s purchase as the Welshman role’s in this Ancelotti era refuses to see daylight owing to injuries and Di Maria’s terrific start to the season. Mesut Ozil’s captivating performances at the Emirates are further dampeners in an already dull environment at the Bernabeu. The team hasn’t yet displayed a convincing performance in the league and the pressure is on Ancelotti to deliver now.
Levante on the other hand have made a decent start to the campaign after being thrashed by FC Barcelona in their opening match. They are yet to lose and have notched up four draws and two victories after the Barca fiasco. Their financial troubles have been well documented but they have managed to punch above their might in the last couple of seasons and are doing the same this season too.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Manager Joaquín Caparrós is also looking for ways to extract the best from his squad. They have failed to score goals regularly and their defensive performance against Barcelona left a lot to be desired.
The good news for Caparros is the return of Baba Diawara and David Navarro to match fitness and both are expected to start against Real Madrid. Levante are sure to play a physical game and foul repeatedly. The visiting side would need steel to encounter such situations and handle the treatment that is to come their way.
Ruben Garcia is one player who could trouble Real Madrid with his passing and dribbling ability but other than that, there is no real venom in Levante offense which could really trouble Real Madrid.
It is now clear that Ancelotti prefers either a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 rather than the conventional 4-2-3-1 under Mourinho. In his pre-match conference, Ancelotti explained that his team’s formation depended on Cristiano Ronaldo’s position on the pitch. Speaking about his team setup in the Copenhagen match, he said, “We played with a 4-3-3 formation and I liked how the players interpreted the system. We were well balanced. If Cristiano Ronaldo is more open we need to play with three midfielders. What matters is knowing this system as well as the 4-4-2 and to play both naturally”.
He also made it clear that players would be rotated against Levante. Diego Lopez would be back in goal alongside Sergio Ramos, Varane, Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao. While Marcelo appears to be the best choice considering his impact against Copenhagen, the manager could rest him considering he is returning from a major injury. Isco could be called into the starting XI alongside Illarramendi and Sami Khedira. Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria will play their part on the flanks.
The biggest talking point in the last couple of weeks has the woeful form of Karim Benzema. While his tireless running is appreciated, his finishing has deserted him. A few goals would do a lot of good for his confidence but the ball is just not being put away into the net even off easy chances. The Frenchman is enduring a terrible time and each miss reminds the Bernabeu faithful of Higuain’s sale to Napoli. Alvaro Morata is ready to break into the first team and his name is now being chanted regularly at the Santiago Bernabeu. He could start ahead of Benzema in this important clash.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Lopez; Arbeloa, Ramos, Varane, Coentrao; Illarra, Khedira, Isco; Di Maria, Benzema, Ronaldo
Player To Watch Out For
Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid)
The academy graduate has waited for a chance to start under Ancelotti and it appears that the time has finally come. His impressive cameo against Atletico made the right noises but he still needs to finish better. Considering that he is just starting out, he is bound to improve with more time on the pitch and fulfill his potential as Morientes’ successor.
Levante 0 – 3 Real Madrid
Levante are a tough place to travel to. Real Madrid have experienced their share of defeats but this being a must-win game in order to avoid falling further behind Atletico and Barcelona, the visiting side are expected to come out with all guns blazing and put all doubts about their form to bed.
Blast From The Past