After the international break which felt like an eternity (like they do always) Villarreal start a stretch of 6 games before the christmas break at the Ciutat de Valencia against local rivals Levante.
Levante had a torrid start to the season with a 7-0 loss to Barcelona but have improved a lot since then and are very touht to score on. After the first game, they have conceded less than a goal per game (10 in 12 matches). With departures of key players from last season like Vicent Iborra and arrivals of new players like Xumetra and Andreas Ivanschitz, it took a bit of a time for new manager Joaquin Caparros to get things settled.
Stats and tactics
Curiously, they have a poor record at home with just one win. Villarreal has a decent away record with 3 wins from 6 matches.
Levante averages the lowest possession in the league at just 36.9%. This is not surprising because Levante is very comfortable sitting back and counterattack. Levante also concedes the highest # of shots per game (17.4) in the league and rank 2nd in fouls committed per game (again, not surprising considering that David Navarro is one of their starting central defender). Levante rank last in goals scored from open play. Only 5 of their 13 goals came from open play.
To summarize, Levante defend deep in numbers. They take their chances off of set-pieces and counterattacks.
The best remedy against teams like this is to score first. That would force them to come out of their shell which will open up the game to impose our style and play the game at our pace. (duh, didnt need an Einstein to figure that out!)
Levante attacks more from the right than the left, Jordi Xumetra, Pedro Lopez do a fine job on the right side. Nabil El-Zhar is their highest scorer with 4 goals followed by their senagalese center-forward Babá Diawara with 3.
Injuries & suspensions
Giovani Dos Santos (injury), Jaume Costa (suspsended due to accumulation of yellow cards) and Chechu Dorado (injury) will miss the 1 hour trip down A7 to Valencia.
Levante's Pedro Lopez is suspended for this game.
Keys to the game
The key for Villarreal will would be to take their chances. I have no doubt that we will create a lot of chances. Scoring first will open this game up and the backline of Levante cant really keep up with the pace of the likes of Jony, Javier Aquino or Hernán Perez.. Knowing that they will commit a lot o fouls we might get a chance or two on the set-pieces too.
Squads & projected XIs
Levante 18 : Keylor Navas, Javi Jiménez, David Navarro, Vyntra, Juanfran, Nikos, Chris, El Zhar, Rubén, Xumetra, Sergio, Pedro Riós, Ivanschitz, Pape Diop, Simao, Nong, Barral, Babá
Villarreal 18 : Asenjo, Juan Carlos, Mario, Pantic, Jokic, Musacchio, Gabriel y Pablo Íñiguez, Bruno, Cani, Pina, Trigueros, Hernán Pérez, Aquino, Moi Gómez, Uche, Perbet y Jonathan Pereira.
Levante Likely XI 4-2-3-1
Navas; Chris - Navarro-El Adoua - Juanfran; Diop-Simao; Xumetra-Rubén Garcia-El Zhar; Babá
Villarreal Likely XI 4-4-2
Asenjo; Mario-Musacchio-Gabriel Paulista- Bojan Jokic; Aquino-Bruno-Pina-Cani; Uche-Jony
Cani makes his 300th appearance for Villarreal. I have started a hashtag #Cani300 on twitter tweeting clips of some of his great goals and passes! I hope we can keep him for a few more years. I hope we get 3 points on his special day. It is a very winnable away game for us. 1600+ groguets will be cheering the team in Levante!