Carlo Ancelotti is taking nothing for granted as he leads his Real Madrid side into an away clash with Levante knowing that they can ill afford to drop further points behind Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the table. Madrid have already struggled against on paper modest opposition this season in drawing with Villarreal and needing a controversial injury-time penalty to beat Elche. And after a 1-0 defeat to Ateltico last weekend, Madrid sit five points behind both their city rivals and Barcelona.
“Levante is difficult in their stadium and we need to play a very intense game to win,” Ancelotti said, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “It’s a tough match and we have to be focused because we’ve already had problems with similar squads like Villarreal and Elche.”
Madrid enjoyed a morale-boosting 4-0 win over FC Copenhagen in midweek to make it two wins out of two in their Champions League group. Ancelotti made several changes for the fixture, with the likes of Isco and Sergio Ramos starting on the bench, and he has revealed that many of those left out will return to the lineup on Saturday.
“We have many games and everyone is in good form,” he said. “The ones who didn’t start against Copenhagen will play tomorrow and there will be rotations to avoid problems. Not everyone who didn’t get a chance is going to play, but many will.”
One man that definitely will not be involved against Levante is Gareth Bale. The big-money summer signing is recovering from another muscle injury. While he was initially called up for international duty next week with Wales, he has since pulled out with Ancelotti hopeful that the attacker will be fit for the first match after the break.
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Levante’s season got off to the worst possible start with a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Barcelona that suggested a difficult season ahead. Since then, though, Levante have been a model of solidity; unbeaten in six matches, in which they have conceded just four goals.
Joaquin Caparros is the man responsible for Levante’s rise into the top half of the table after the most ignominious of starts to his tenure. After a 2-0 win over Osasuna he leads Levante into a fixture in which they have a surprisingly good record in recent seasons, winning two and losing just once in Real Madrid’s last four visits to the Ciutat de Valencia.
D: Lopez, Navarro, Vyntra, Juanfran
M: Pinto, Diop
Xumetra, Garcia, Ivanschitz
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao
M: Modric, Khedira, Isco
F: Di Maria, Morata, Ronaldo
Prediction: Angel di Maria was superb against Copenhagen and makes the incredible fee for Gareth Bale appear increasingly unnecessary. Certainly Bale should not be missed against Levante. A fresh Isco should also return to add further creativity to the side. There remains plenty of problems with Madrid still adjusting their new style under Ancelotti, but they should eventually have enough to break down a stubborn Levante side.
Levante 0-1 Real Madrid
Where to watch: The Primera division match will kick-off at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.