• Marti

Run of crucial matches continues with Levante test

LALIGA SANTANDER

ROUND 33

ESTADIO JOSÉ ZORRILLA, VALLADOLID, SPAIN

KICK-OFF: 21:00 (UK)


REAL VALLADOLID (14TH, 35 POINTS) vs LEVANTE (12TH, 41 POINTS)

Real Valladolid look to get back to winning ways as they entertain Levante at the Estadio José Zorrilla tonight, having won just once since the league campaign restarted.


Following Friday night’s 1-1 draw at Sevilla, where the hosts equalised through a late penalty, Sergio González’s side occupy 14th place and are six points above the relegation. There is a lot of congestion at the bottom end of the table and safety in the top flight is far from secure, so this places a great importance on gaining positive results from the upcoming matches – especially against Levante, in the next fixture with Deportivo Alavés (who are currently level on points with Pucela) and Real Betis in the final match of the season. It is imperative that Real Valladolid take maximum advantage of the teams around them, as tricky back-to-back encounters with Valencia and Barcelona await.

Levante hitman Roger Marti spent two sperate loan spells as a Real Valladolid player (Image: El Desmarque)

Levante sit two places higher in the standings than their opponents and are six points better off. Paco López brings his side to the José Zorrilla on the back of an impressive 4-2 win over struggling Real Betis. He has been in charge of Los Granotas for 88 matches since taking over as manager in March 2018. In that spell, they have won 38.64% of their matches, with López overseeing a record of 34 wins, 19 draws and 35 losses. In these matches, Levante have recorded a -3 goal difference (scored 134, conceded 137). Since the resumption of league play, the visitors have won two out of their five matches (3-1 at Espanyol and the Real Betis victory), drawn twice (a late penalty earning a 1-1 draw against Valencia at the Mestalla and the same score at home to Sevilla) and lost just once by a score of 1-0 to Atlético. This means they have won 40% of their matches since picking up in June, averaging 1.8 goals scored and 1.2 conceded per match on their way to collecting eight out of 15 (53.33%) of available points, so the Blanquivioletas will have a tough challenge on their hands.

Fire-brand manager Paco López has got the best from his players since joining Levante in 2018

The visitors enjoy a superior goal scoring total, with 41 notched this season. The main goal-scoring threat comes from Roger Marti, who spent time at Real Valladolid on loan in seasons past. He has managed 11 so far this season in 30 appearances. Behind him is Borja Mayoral, on loan from Real Madrid, who has contributed seven goals and two assists in 28 matches, and club captain José Luis Morales (nicknamed El Comandante) has featured in all 32 of Levante’s matches this season and has chipped in with 3 goals and 2 assists. Morales brings versatility to the side, being able to play centre-forward, left-wing and left or right midfield. Goals have been shared out through the midfield players as well; Enis Bardhi has grabbed four in 26 games, Rubén Rochina with four in 23 and Gonzalo Melero and José Campaña registering two each in 20 and 31 matches respectively.


Although they have scored 14 more goals than tonight’s opponents, Levante have also conceded nine more than Pucela and it will be this better defensive record which will give the hosts their best chance of gaining points.

'El Comandante' Morales in familiar goal celebration pose (Image: UD Las Palmas)

REAL VALLADOLID HOME FORM:


There is no clear advantage to Real Valladolid playing at home in this match, and this is more to do with home form in general than playing in an empty stadium. They have won just three of their 15 home games, amassing 18 out of 45 available points (40%), but have also lost only three times at the José Zorrilla and these defeats have come to quality opposition in the form of Sevilla, Real Madrid and Athletic Club. The remaining nine home matches ending in a draw are the highest in the league this season. They have a +1 goal difference (scored 15, conceded 14) and Sergio’s men are averaging 1.0 goals per game scored with 0.93 conceded.


Due to the suspension of the league play as a result of the Covd-19 pandemic, one must look back to February to find the last time Real Valladolid triumphed in familiar confines. In their last five outings at home, Pucela have won once (2-1 vs Espanyol), drawn three times (1-1 vs Villarreal, 0-0 with Celta and 1-1 against Getafe) and lost once, that 4-1 defeat to Athletic Club where two goals in the last six minutes padded the score-line for the visitors.


LEVANTE AWAY FORM:


Although Real Valladolid are not hugely dominant at home, they will take comfort from the fact that Levante have performed far better on their own soil. The disparity in success between home and away fixtures is quite marked with 28 points earned at home versus 13 on the road. Overall, they have gained 58.33% of available home points, with that figure sliding down to 27.08% away.


Their last away win came in their previous travelling fixture where they easily saw off bottom club Espanyol 3-1. However, prior to that, they had lost 2-0 at Barcelona, 2-1 at Villarreal and 3-0 at Eibar before stealing a late point at the Mestalla in the Valencian derby. Their away from currently sits at a 20% win rate earning them four out of 15 (26.66%) points, with a record of 1.0 goals scored per match and 1.8 conceded.

Sergi Guardiola gets into the face of Levante midfielder Nikola Vukčević in Round 3 (Image: El Día de Segovia)

HEAD TO HEAD:


Levante hold the advantage in terms of direct matches played against each other. Los Granotas have triumphed six times out of the 13 played (46%), with Real Valladolid winning four (31%) and there have been 3 draws (23%).


Both sides have enjoyed greater success in their own stadium, as Pucela have won three out of the six meetings at the José Zorrilla (two Levante wins and one draw), while they have won just once at the Cuitat de València in seven attempts (five Levante wins and one draw).


Last season, the teams spilt the series with Real Valladolid winning 2-1 at home in September 2018 thanks to Enes Ünal and a superbly hit volley from Nacho, with Sergio Postigo replying for Levante. In January 2019, goals form Coke and Roger gave Paco López and his team a 2-0 win.


The sides have met already this season, in Round 3, in August of last year. Again, Levante ran out 2-0 winners but were made to work for it as it took until the 83rd minute for Sergio León to make the breakthrough and Morales added a second when he capped a fine move and finished in the 93rd minute.


CONNECTIONS:


Levante hitman Roger Marti spent two loan spells at Real Valladolid. Between July 2014 and July 2015 he made 19 appearances and registered six goals. He turned out in the white and violet for a further 19 matches between January and June 2016, this time notching eight goals. He is still held in high regard by Pucela fans for his efforts as a Real Valladolid player and many would have liked to have seen the striker make a permanent move to the José Zorrilla.


Real Valladolid vice-captain Míchel, a Valencia native, made 51 outings as a Levante player between July 2012 and July 2013. He scored seven goals in that span.

Míchel during his days as a Levante player (Image: Marca)

SQUAD NEWS:


Real Valladolid could be without the services of defender / defensive midfielder Joaquín Fernández, who has been struggling with physical discomfort but has been included in the squad. He is likely to start on the bench as Sergio continues to rotate his squad. Matheus Fernandes made his debut against Atlético in Round 31 but could miss the remainder of the season with a groin injury. Pedro Porro continues to be sidelined and injured striker Sandro Ramírez has completed his loan deal and will return to Everton having contributed three goals.


It is expected that Sergio will revert back to the traditional 4-4-2 formation, after employing a 4-2-3-1 look in the draw against Sevilla on Friday with young striker Miguel earning his first ever start for the first team as the spearhead of the attack.


Paco López has almost a full squad to choose from and is only missing defender Iván López who tore a meniscus and has not featured this season so far. He too is rotating his starting line-up due to the frequency of games in the Spanish summer heat.