Crucial game for Real Madrid after Valladolid beat Barcelona 1-0 on Saturday. Los blancos can be four points ahead of Messi and company with a win at home against Levante.
I admit, I'm not really sure what to make of Levante. They're sitting eighth in the league only two points back of Sevilla but they have a -5 goal differential. They're very good at not conceding goals but very mediocre when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net themselves. Don't let this fool you though, outside of a 7-0 hammering at the hands of Barca they've been fantastic in keeping games close and scrapping out points. In fact, they haven't lost in the league in their last eight matches. Also looking back, in case you don't remember this is how their first meeting this season with Madrid ended.
Of course, that was a while ago and both teams have evolved since then.
As previously mentioned, Levante's offense is quite putrid. They manage just under 10 shots per game, which is worst in the league, to the tune of 44 percent shot accuracy (for comparison's sake, Madrid averages 19 and 52 percent, respectively). Levante plays a 4-2-3-1 led by Pape Diop and Simao in the middle with David Barral being their lead scorer as he has six goals to his name. They like to attack heavily down the right side but have trouble getting off clean shots in the box. Defensively, the ageless Juanfran (the dude is 37 years old!) anchors them along with the help of fellow old guy Loukas Vyntra (33 years old) but that doesn't mean they aren't vulnerable as the team gives up the most shots per game in the entire league. They're also last in the league in possession at a paltry 36.4 percent.
Honestly, there just isn't much that makes this squad stand out. They're 5-5-3 at home and 4-4-5 on the road. I think they're overachieving and riding some luck but you have to give them credit for battling and keeping games manageable. However, with this being in the Bernabeu and the BBC in rip-roaring form, I expect Madrid to pull out a win by a relatively comfortable margin.
Remember that Álvaro Arbeloa has joined Sami Khedira on Real Madrid's injury report after a stress fracture on his right patella, so Daniel Carvajal will be starting.
My prediction: 2-0 Real Madrid with the scoreline flattering Levante. With Barca losing yesterday Madrid must win to pile on the pressure.