Real Madrid will hope to bounce back to winning ways when they welcome Levante to the Santiago Bernabeu in a rare midweek La Liga game.

The 2021/22 La Liga season is reaching its climactic end, and just three games remain for the curtains to fall on the campaign. While the league title is safe with Real Madrid, the top four and relegation battles are still brewing. And Levante will aim to remain in contention to stay afloat in the top flight when they take on Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday night.

Real Madrid’s 2021/22 campaign has been a resounding success, with the Merengues winning the Spanish Super Cup and La Liga titles. Carlo Ancelotti’s charges have also qualified for the UEFA Champions League final, where they will lock horns with Liverpool. Real Madrid’s most recent game ended in a 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, which was an inconsequential result for them.

On the other hand, Levante’s 2021/22 campaign has been one to forget, as they have been involved in the relegation battle throughout the season. The Granotes are second from the bottom, with only Alaves below him on the La Liga table. Alessio Lisci’s men have enjoyed a decent run of form lately, losing just one of their last four games and giving themselves the chance of retaining their La Liga status.

The reverse fixture was a riveting affair that ended in a 3-3 draw between Levante and Real Madrid, with Vinicius Jr. earning his side a point with an 85th-minute strike. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Carlo Ancelotti does not have any new injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Levante. On Thursday, the Real Madrid manager could be bereft of the services of six first-team players due to various fitness issues.

Marcelo (muscle injury), David Alaba (match fitness), Dani Ceballos (physical discomfort), Gareth Bale (ankle), Isco (physical discomfort) and Eden Hazard (ankle) could all miss out due to the short turnover period between Real Madrid’s two games.

Ancelotti has revealed in his pre-match press conference that everyone rested against Atletico Madrid will return to the starting eleven on Thursday. So Thibaut Courtois will pick himself between the sticks for Real Madrid, who will line up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of him.

Alaba is not fit enough to start, meaning Nacho will move into the heart of the Real Madrid defence, with Jesus Vallejo dropping to the bench. Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy will be the two full-backs, with Eder Militao being the other centre-back against Levante.

Up ahead in midfield, Casemiro will continue to build his sharpness for the big game against Liverpool, with Ancelotti likely to give him another 60 minutes on the pitch. Federico Valverde and Luka Modric will join Casemiro in the middle of the park, with Toni Kroos and Eduardo Camavinga getting their turns to rest.

Rodrygo Goes has been one of the most in-form players for Real Madrid in the last few games, and he will retain his spot in the side. But Luka Jovic will drop to the bench, with Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr. returning to the starting eleven.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Valverde, Casemiro, Modric; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.

Levante

Like his counterpart in the Real Madrid dugout, Allessio Lisci does not have any new roster issues to deal with ahead of the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu. The Levante manager will be without four first-team players on Thursday.

Carlos Clerc (knee), Shkodran Mustafi (muscle injury), Jorge de Frutos (foot) and Roberto Soldado (hamstring) remain on the sidelines. Dani Cardenas will take his place between the stick against Real Madrid, with Levante lining up in a 5-3-2 formation in front of him.

Lisci will task the players with keeping things tight in the half-spaces, forcing Real Madrid out wide and rendering their gameplay one dimensional. The back five will help in robbing Luka Modric, Federico Valverde, Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo Goes of space to work with on Thursday.

Son and Jorge Miramon will be the two full-backs, with the duo likely to remain compact for the most part on Thursday. Rober Pier, Oscar Duarte and Ruben Vezo will be the three centre-backs, with the trio looking to keep a lid on Karim Benzema’s output.

Up ahead in midfield, Pepelu will reprise the anchor role, with Nemanja Radoja and Gonzalo Melero providing defensive support to him. Finally, Dani Gomez and Jose Luis Morales will form the strike partnership, but the duo will feed off scraps against Real Madrid.

Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Cardenas; Miramon, Rober, Duarte, Vezo, Son; Radoja, Pepelu, Melero; Dani Gomez, Morales

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have won the 33 per cent of their games against Levante in La Liga since 2017/18 (P9 W3 D3 L3). Only against Villarreal (30 per cent – P10 W3 D6 L1) do they have a lower win percentage in the competition since then (minimum four matches). The Merengues have won just one of their last four home games in La Liga against Levante (D1 L2) after winning ten of their previous 11 games at home against them in the competition (L1)
  • Levante have won three of their last six games in La Liga (D1 L2), as many as in their previous 37 games in the top flight (W3 D13 L21).
  • Real Madrid have dropped a league-low two points after scoring the first goal this season (alongside Real Betis). The Whites have won 20 of the 21 games when they have conceded the first goal in the competition this term (D1).
  • After winning 1-0 at Wanda Metropolitano in La Liga in February, Alessi Lisci could become the second Levante boss to collect points in his away games against Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid in a single season in the competition, after Paco Lopez last season (W2).
  • Levante’s Roberto Soldado has scored five goals against Real Madrid in La Liga with three different sides (one for Getafe, three for Valencia and one for Villarreal). No player has scored against Real Madrid with four different sides in the competition this century.

Player to Watch

Vinicius Jr.

Embed from Getty Images

There has been no stopping Karim Benzema at Real Madrid lately, but one player who will need to be at his blistering best is Vinicius Junior. The Brazilian international has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2021/22 but has blown hot and cold somewhat lately.

With a few weeks remaining till the biggest game of the season for Real Madrid, Vinicius Junior will get three more matches to get all the rhythm back and be in the correct shape for the UEFA Champions League final. That will start from Thursday when Real Madrid and Levante clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-1 Levante

Levante will make things difficult for Real Madrid, as they will prioritise not conceding a goal while looking to hit the hosts on the counter-attack. But Vinicius Jr. will make the difference with his mazy runs and directness, with Karim Benzema also producing the goods. However, Levante will not go down without a fight, scoring one goal on the break, although that will be too little too late.

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