Real Madrid will be aiming to cut down the gap to the top of the La Liga table when they lock horns with Levante at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano this weekend.

Matchday 21 of the 2020/21 La Liga campaign gets underway this week and reigning champions Real Madrid will be in action on Saturday afternoon as they play hosts to Levante at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium.

It has been a rough couple of weeks for Real Madrid what with the elimination from the Supercopa de Espana and Copa del Rey. But, they bounced back to winning ways in style last weekend, thrashing Deportivo Alaves 4-1 and will be aiming to build on that as Zinedine Zidane & co. look to close the gap to league leaders Atletico Madrid, who are seven points ahead.

Levante head into the weekend clash on a six-game unbeaten run in all competitions. Paco Lopez’s side beat Real Valladolid 4-2 in their last assignment in the Copa del Rey earlier this week. Even though they are 12th in La Liga, the Granotas are just five points above the drop zone and will be aiming to widen the distance by coming away with a positive result on Saturday.

The reverse fixture, played in October last year, saw Real Madrid come out 2-0 winners courtesy goals from Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema. Ahead of their latest meeting this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Fede Valverde ruled out with injury. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Fede Valverde ruled out with injury. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Rodrygo Goes and Federico Valverde are both ruled out due to injuries while Nacho remains in self-isolation after testing positive for coronavirus, much like manager Zinedine Zidane who will not be on the touchlines. In addition, Sergio Ramos, Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal are all injury doubts for the game as well.

Changes are likely to be minimal after the performance against Alaves last time out. Thibaut Courtois will be the undisputed starter in goal, while Carvajal and Vazquez’s potential absence means Alvaro Odriozola should get a rare start at right-back.

There is no looking past Ferland Mendy on the left, with the Frenchman set to play a key role with his forward forays. At the heart of the defence, Raphael Varane, who has been linked with a summer exit, should pair up alongside Eder Militao and look to blunt the Levante attack.

The centre-back duo will further be aided by Brazilian enforcer Casemiro, who will look to break up play and instigate attacks from midfield. Partnering him in the middle of the park should be Luka Modric, who will be tasked with driving the team forward when on the ball while Toni Kroos will look to dictate the tempo with his masterful distribution.

Marco Asensio should feature on the right while Eden Hazard should start again on the left, with the duo likely to veer in from the flanks and link up with the lone striker in Karim Benzema.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Odriozola, Varane, Militao, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Hazard

Levante

Jorge de Frutos will not be available for selection against Real Madrid after picking up an injury in the last league game against Valladolid. Jose Campana and Cheick Doucoure are also set to miss out for Levante while Nikola Vukcevic is also a major doubt for the contest against Real Madrid.

Paco Lopez will set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez, with the visitors likely to play on the counter.

Sergio Postigo and Ruben Vezo ought to form the centre-back partnership for Levante, who will have the unenviable task of keeping Karim Benzema quiet. The full-backs, Jorge Miramon and Carlos Clerc will stay compact and look to support the centre-halves.

The midfield bank of four for Levante will comprise of Nemanja Radoja and Mickael Malsa, who will occupy the central areas, sitting deep and trying to cut out the influence of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

Jose Luis Morales and Enis Bardhi ought to be the two wide men, who will serve as the primary creators for the twin strike-force of Roger Marti and the in-form Dani Gomez, who will look to prove a point against his former club.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Fernandez; Miramon, Postigo, Vezo, Clerc; Morales, Malsa, Radoja, Bardhi; Gomez, Marti

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have only won three of their last seven La Liga matches against Levante (D2 L2), after having won their previous nine against them in the competition.
  • Levante have lost six of their last seven away La Liga games against Madrilenian opponents (W1) after winning four of their previous five such contests (L1).
  • Real Madrid have won their last four La Liga games on home turf, keeping clean sheets in three of those – their longest such run in the competition this term.
  • Levante have collected 12 points from their last 7 La Liga matches (W3 D3 L1), one more than they managed in their previous 11 contests in the competition.
  • Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has been involved in six goals in his last six La Liga games against Levante (four goals, two assists), including a brace in his last appearance at home against the Granota in the competition.

Player to Watch

Eden Hazard

Embed from Getty Images

After a wretched first half of the season marred by injuries, the Belgian wing-wizard will be hoping to fare better in the second phase and made an auspicious start against Deportivo Alaves last time out as he found the back of the net and had a hand in one of Karim Benzema’s goal as well.

With Levante likely to stay tight and compact at the back, Real Madrid will need Hazard’s trickery on the ball to open up the visitors’ defence. His ability to effectively link up with Benzema in the final third will have a huge say on how Real Madrid fare on Saturday afternoon.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-1 Levante

Levante are unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions and have lost just one of their previous eleven. And even though they have not picked up many wins, they will be confident of making life difficult for Real Madrid.

However, the Merengues bounced back to winning ways in style against Alaves last weekend and will be playing their first home game in nearly a month, where they have a solid record. That, coupled with Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard finding form, should help Los Blancos eke out a win against Levante this weekend.

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