Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
16th February, 20:00 GMT
Real Madrid will be intent to win the game against Levante on Sunday in order to remain in contention with Barcelona ahead of El Clasico.
Ancelotti has a tough task to win back the support of Real Madrid faithful as he looks to overturn a season which was predicted to be a highly fruitful one for Real Madrid. Real Madrid, who had a brilliant first half to the campaign, have now fall on to the back foot and are looking like they are in a situation which will see them agonisingly end the season empty-handed. After being league leaders for majority of the season, Real Madrid lost their lead to Barcelona after a home draw against Villarreal and a 1-0 away defeat to Athletic Bilbao. There is still times to turn things around and Sundaya s game against Levante is a must-win for a Los Blancosa as they look to maintain their proximity to the top before visiting Barcelona for the much-awaited El Clasico.
Levante is one of the few team in the La Liga that have the potential to cause an upset and give a hard time to the Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona. It is always tough to face Levante, especially away from home. However, Levante come into this game in not a very kind situation as they are placed 17th in the league. Levante have the tough job to overcome Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu and deny the opposition the full three points. All being said, though Levante are not favourites to cause an upset on Sunday, they could not have wished for a better moment to face Real Madrid, who are going through a very rough patch in the season.
Team News and Tactics
Real Madrid have a chance at home against Levante to bring back the attacking prowess that made them one of the most feared teams in the first half of the season. With Luka Modric back from injury, there is bound to be more creativity on display from Real Madrid. The Spanish giantsa recent performances have been below par and havena t really been easy on the eye, especially in the attack. While attacking, Real Madrid seem to have run out of ideas and this game against Levante is the perfect opportunity for Ancelotti to try out different methods, different tactics in attack and he will be hoping that the attacking tri of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano proves their mettle on Sunday. Ancelotti must be wary of the fact that poor defending can cost him some precious points. Real Madrid will be hoping that their defending improves on Sunday and we see a better performance from the back four.
In his press conference, Ancelotti refused to concede whether Navas will play against his former team or not. However, the former Levante player is expected to make a rare appearance on Sunday ahead of captain Iker Casillas whose recent performances arena t really helping his case. In the defence, a back four of Carvajal, Varane, Pepe and Marcelo is expected to start the game while Sergio Ramos is expected to be on the bench and get some gametime towards the end of the game. Luka Modric is expected to start the game and get close to 60 minutes on the pitch as he prepares to play the full 90 against Barcelona. Kroos and Isco are expected to start the game despite carrying the risk of picking up a yellow card that will suspend them for the game against Barca.
Probable Line-Up (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo;
Levante have managed to get themselves out of the relegation zone but still face the risk of ending the season in the bottom three. They are 17th in the league and only a point clear of 18th placed Almeria. A defeat is highly likely on Sunday and it will make matters even worse for Levante. Levante who are usually expected to give Real Madrid a tough time will be thanking their stars for they are visiting the Bernabeu at a time when Real Madrid are going through a horrid phase in the season. Tight defending, especially on the wings and making full use of the open spaces in the Real Madrid back-line while counter-attacking will be the key to success for Levante. Levante will have to be at the top of their game in order to avoid defeat at the Real Madrid fortress.
Levante will be missing Ivan Lopez, Papakouli Diop and Pedro Lopez as the trio is sure to miss out on the clash. Diego Marino is expected to feature between the sticks protected by a back-four of Navarro, Ramis, Tono and Simao Junior. Uche will provide the key in attack as he will be the main-figure who can make a difference to the score-sheet.
Probable Line-Up (4-4-2):Diego Marino; David Navarro, Ramis, Tono, Simao Junior; Xumetra, Ruben Garcia , Victor Camarasa, Uche; David Barral, Jose Luis Morales;
Real Madrid 2-0 Levante
Real Madrid may be on a bad run of form but they are expected to do better on Sunday. Playing at home, an upset will not be taken lightly by the fans as well as Real Madrid management. However, do not expect Real Madrid to go all-out and fire many goals. A one or two goal margin will be expected in the favour of Real Madrid getting the three points on Sunday.