Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid
6 April, 2013; 1600 GMT
Real Madrid welcome Levante at the Santiago Bernabéu before they make the all important trip to Turkey to face Galatasaray. Their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League looks guaranteed but as Jose Mourinho warned the possibility of miracles, Real Madrid would certainly prioritise their mid-weel CL clash to today’s clash with Levante.
The Spanish giants have had a rough season but finally are looking on track to achieve a double of Copa Del Rey and the Champions League. Their league performances have certainly been unimpressive but with the league more or less lost, Mourinho will look to salvage pride if nothing else from the current Liga campaign and direct his energy to the remaining competitions. Levante, on the other hand have not had a great season like last year thus far. Their Europa League adventure culminated in a loss against Rubin Kazan but they have not let Europe affect their league status. Their victory against Sevilla last match day takes them to 40 points, the magical mark to avoid relegation. Levante have no other deviations now and will be at full strength against Real Madrid.
Team Line-up and Tactics
Jose Mourinho will select his line-up with one eye inevitably on the Champions League clash against Galatasaray. It is well known how difficult it is to play in Turkey, Gala’s stadium being especially loud. With no fresh injury concerns, Real Madrid will have ample opportunity to keep key players fit for the all important Champions League squad.
Iker Casillas has been finally called to the squad but with Diego Lopez looking in ominous form, it will hard for the Real Madrid captain to retain his place. Mourinho has been clear about starting Lopez till he keeps performing at such a high level. Casillas will have to wait patiently for his opportunities. It is a situation the world’s best custodian has not faced thus far in his career but will probably take it on his chin and work hard to reclaim his place.
Real Madrid will line-up in the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. Diego Lopez will start in goal and will hope to continue his remarkable run of form, assisted by a back four of Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe and Marcelo. Ramos and Alonso are suspended for next week’s clash and Mourinho has been clear about fielding the both of them against Levante. Marcelo who recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at Madrid till 2018, will start on the left giving Coentrao a much deserved rest. Pepe has lost his starting position to Varane and with Varane certain to play on wednesday, Pepe will look to prove his abilities against a much less fancied Levante.
Sami Khedira will be rested as Real Madrid will need the industrious presence of Khedira more than they are going to need the finesse of Modric in midfield against Galatasaray. Ergo, the duo of Modric andAlonso will form the midfield pivot.
In the attacking trio, Ronaldo will be play on the left flank with Kaka playing through the middle of the park, pulling the strings for Real Madrid in the midfield. On the right flank, Jose Callejon is expected to feature helping the tam with his impressive off-the-ball movement. With Mourinho preferring Benzema over Higuain against Galatasaray for Real Madrid, the former will be benched in anticipation of the Champions League clash and Higuain will lead the line for Real Madrid.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) : Lopez (GK); Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Alonso, Modric; Callejon, Kaka, Ronaldo; Higuain
Juan Ignacio Martinez will be happy with the return of Sergio Ballesteros after suspension but will also have problems in finding a replacement for David Navarro. Levante last victory against Sevilla ended a seven-match winless streak in La Liga and the coach will be hoping to retain the momentum going forward. Levante have defeated Real Madrid in 2011-12 season and will be hoping for a similar kind of result here.
Levante will always cede possession and try to cut out spaces for Real Madrid to attack. They are physical and will not bother about the possession stats. They counter attack and with a little bit of luck and efficiency can punish Real Madrid.
Levante will start with Lell, Ballesteros, Vyntra and Juanfran in defense. Pape Diop and Iborra will shield the defense while Pedro Rios, Barkero and Ruben Garcia will help Acquafresca in attack.
Real Madrid have always had problems with teams who prefer to sit back and absorb pressure and then hit on the counter. And with Mesut Ozil also expected to be given a rest, Real Madrid will rely on Kaka, Modric and Ronaldo to have quite a few shots from distance and thus break down Levante.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) : Munua (GK); Lell, Ballesteros, Vyntra, Juanfran; Diop, Iborra; Rios, Barkero, Garcia; Acquafresca
Player to watch out for
Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid)
The suprise omission of Arbeloa on favor of Essien had led to rumors of the Spanish international losing his status in the squad. While Essien did put in a solid performance, Arbeloa will be hoping to make a big impression in order to retain his position in the starting XI against Galatasaray.
Real Madrid 2 – 1 Levante
Any match against Levante isn’t easy as Real Madrid have found out in the past. The team from Valencia will try to be physical and defensive but Real Madrid are playing at home and with the supporters behind them are expected to win.