Villarreal are in Valencia to play Levante at their Ciutat de Valencia ground. In the first matchup between these two sides in November, it took a last-minute goal from Alfonso Pedraza to rescue a point after a Funes Mori own goal had put Levante ahead. It figures to be a similarly tight contest this time.
Levante’s season has been mediocre, really (I mean that in a good way). They did have a four-game stretch in October where they won 4 in a row (including defeating Madrid at the Bernabeu, 2-1). The draw against us began a run of nine league matches with only one win, and more recently they’ve won just one match in their last six, a 4-1 win at Celta, though their 2-1 loss at home to Madrid was controversial and they deserved more from it.
At home they’re 4-3-5; you’d have to figure them a good bet to get a result here.
Paco Lopez has played some 4-4-2, but he’s mostly gone with a three-man backline and two strikers up front. Ruben Rochina is their midfield creator; Marti (10 goals) and Morales (8 goals) can finish effectively.
Like Villarreal, Levante players have been prone to key errors and haven’t been good at keeping the other team from having lots of opportunities to score. And neither defends dead-ball pieces particularly well. Levante can score in bunches (4 against Eibar, 4 against Celta, 3 against Athletic Club); they can also allow goals in bunches (that Eibar match ended 4-4, and Sevilla scored 11 goals in two matches against them). Consistently inconsistent, I’d say!
Villarreal are shorthanded in the backline with Alvaro suspended and Bonera injured, so Mario Gaspar looks likely to join Ruiz and Funes Mori in the back. That would appear to make room for Miguelon on the right of midfield, so probably we’ll see something like Miguelon—Fornals—Santi—Iborra—Pedraza behind Toko Ekambi and Carlos Bacca.
(It could be Santy Caseres replaces Fornals, but this sure seems like a game Pablo will have space).
All-time record: Villarreal have a good record against Levante in the Primera (12-2-5; 6-0-3 away) but has lost the last two
times; our last win was the first match of the 2014-15 season. Interestingly, we first played Levante in the Tercera (!) fifty years ago, November 1968 (we lost 3-1 away).
Prediction: As I said above, I think Levante probably can get something from this, so 2-2 maybe? Even at home, Levante are giving up almost two goals a game. It just feels like one of those unpredictable matches where anything could happen.