Levante dropped their first match 1-0 to Alavés; though they controlled much of the play and forced nine corners to Alaves’s two, they weren’t able to score. That may be the issue for Levante this season.
On paper, Paco López has a squad with a lot of experience—with the exception of Real Madrid loanee Borja Mayoral, everyone on the squad is at least 25, almost all 25 to 30 years old with two in their early thirties. And most have Primera experience with several clubs.
Levante’s big purchases this summer were Gonzalo Melero, who you might remember we had a purchase option on—they bought him from Huesca for €3.6m; Sergio Leon, who joined from Betis for €4m; and defender Ruben Vezo, who joined from Valencia for €5m (Levante had him on loan last spring). The latest to arrive (on a free) is midfielder Radoja from Celta, who joins an already strong midfield group including Ruben Rochina, Enos Bardhi and José Campana. Roger Martí (13 goals last year) and Mayoral figure to be the key goalscorers up front.
It’s a team with a lot of decent quality, but there isn’t a particular standout to build around. It feels to me like a team that might take some time to fit together, but they will play hard, Paco is a good coach, and they’ve been successful at avoiding the drop the last few years.
Villarreal, of course, come in after a 4-4 draw and after that match even Santi Cazorla referred to the need to avoid last season’s ‘psychosis’, after yet more defensive frailties.
Alberto Moreno trained normally yesterday and could be available for this match, but Ruben Peña is a doubt. Javier Ontiveros just joined the team so probably won’t be in the call (the team hasn’t released it, so we don’t know). Could be we go with the same starting XI as against Granada except maybe Iborra sits for Ekambi and Mario for Peña. We shall see.
All-time record: Villarreal have done pretty well against the froggies, winning 7 and losing 3 at the Ciutat de Valencia. The two teams haven’t drawn in a league match here!
Villarreal connection: Levante have a couple of ex-Villarreal B players in their squad: goalkeeper Aitor Fernández played for the mini-submarine for four years, from 2012 to 2016, and Toño was there from 2011 to 2014. Paco López, of course, coached Villarreal B from 2014 to 2017.
Trivia: This is the fourth time this decade that Villarreal have made the trip down to play Levante in the opening month of the season. In 2010 the teams met in week 3, Villarreal winning 2-1 with two goals from Nilmar. We opened the season in the Ciutat de Valencia ground in 2014-15 (2-0 win, goals from Uche and Cheryshev) and in 2017-18 (1-0 loss).
Prediction: In our eleventh Primera visit to this ground, I predict our first draw. Probably 2-2, but after last week it could be 1-1, or 3-3, or....