Real Madrid travel to face Levante in La Liga, with Zinedine Zidane looking for his side to continue their recent free-scoring run in the league.
After a torrid first half of the season, Real Madrid seem to be finally coming into their own in La Liga, albeit a bit far too late, given the fact that they find themselves 19 points behind Barcelona. Still, 11 goals in 2 games does bode well for a group of players who were struggling to put the ball into the back of the net.
As far as Levante are concerned, they lie precariously close to the drop, with the club just a couple of points above the relegation spots. Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz would look towards his side to perhaps, snatch in a point or a shock win over the visitors to ease up the pressure.
Levante would take heart from the fact that they earned a point at the Bernabeu, when the teams met earlier in the season. Ahead of their latest matchup, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Sergio Postigo returns to action after serving his one-match ban and is likely to slot straight into the lineup, replacing Chema, who will be serving his own suspension on Saturday. Jose Campana is another player who will miss the tie, having accrued a suspension.
Ivan Lopez, Alex Alegria and Raul Fernandez are still out for the match against Real Madrid. But, Levante could see Tono return to action, albeit only from the bench, with the player only a doubt for Saturday.
With Jose Campana out of contention, Sasa Lukic is likely to come into the lineup to shore up the midfield. Deadline day arrivals Ruben Rochina and Giampaolo Pazzini are both in the running to start on Saturday and Muniz would hope their inclusion can spur the squad on to better results.
Levante are likely to take advantage of a flailing Real Madrid backline, with Muniz likely to direct his players to put pressure on the wide areas. Set-pieces are also likely to be where they threaten the Real Madrid goal the most.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Olazabal; Coke, Cabaco, Postigo, Luna; Lukic, Lerma, Doukoure; Rochina, Pazzini, Jason
Zinedine Zidane has a central defensive crisis at hand, with Jesus Vallejo out and the likes of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos doubtful ahead of the visit to Levante, which leaves just Nacho at his disposal. However, there are signs that Varane should recover in time to partner Nacho, which will come as a huge relief for the manager.
Up ahead, Zidane is likely to not pull out any surprises, with the triad of Benzema, Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo expected to start as the front three, while Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro are likely to be the trio in midfield. Casemiro will be an influential figure sitting at the base of the three-man midfield.
The Brazilian will be tasked with the responsibility of helping the defence out, whenever Levante try to pull a fast counter-attack on Real Madrid.
A lot of the buildup is likely to go through Luka Modric, who serves, interestingly, as a marauding quarter-back, who often speeds up ahead to become a trequartista of sorts, if afforded space by the opposition.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Nacho, Varane, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
1. Levante are the joint-worst side in La Liga in terms of match wins (3) so far this season, while also being the side with the most number of draws (10).
2. Real Madrid have interestingly, kept just 1 clean sheet in their last five league matches away at Levante, but have also scored in all but one of those five matches.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo comes into the game having scored back-to-back braces in the league against Deportivo and Valencia respectively.
4. Ronaldo also has a good record against Levante, scoring 14 and providing 8 assists in 12 matches against the home side.
Player to Watch
While Real Madrid, collectively, had a torrid first-half of the season, no player has come under the scanner more than Karim Benzema. The Frenchman has shown that he is slowly beginning to find his feet again in front of goal and even though he might not get on the scoresheet as consistently, he is still able to set up his teammates, create chances for himself and others.
But, ideally, the Frenchman would love to get a few goals under his belt, especially before Los Blancos’ best bet for a trophy this season – the UEFA Champions League – commences again with the knockout phase.
Levante 1-4 Real Madrid
A scoreline that perhaps, justifies the fixture. Given Real Madrid’s problems in defence, Levante are likely to put at least one past the visitors, unless Keylor Navas produces an absolute world-class performance on Saturday.
And while Levante are likely to score, Real Madrid should be able to outscore the home side, thanks to what looks like a return to form for their deadly attacking trio. A comfortable win for Real Madrid, with Karim Benzema likely to be on the scoresheet, and perhaps, more than once.