Mike Holden previews Friday night's live La Liga clash between Levante and Getafe.
Relegation battles are nothing new to Levante. Being bottom of the table with 14 games to go isn’t a psoition that fazes them. The Granotes are more skilled than most at the art of periodisation, targeting specific matches to deliver peak performances and haul themselves out of trouble.
Their form looks terrible but it would dangerous to assume that a run of nine defeats in 11 outings equates to low confidence. Rubi’s men are seasoned campaigners when it comes to scratching around for points. They are perfectly capable of flicking a switch to suit the occasion, as home wins over Rayo Vallecano and Las Palmas last month illustrate.
Last season, they were bottom after 21 matches with just three victories on the board at that point but six wins in the next 13 led a comfortable path to survival, even though they reached late April without achieving back to back wins at any point. When the dust had settled, it became apparent that 25 of their 37 points came against the six teams who finished below them.
With Villarreal (away), Real Madrid (home) and Real Sociedad (away) to negotiate after this clash, April is all set-up to be a huge month with successive matches against Sporting, Real Betis, Espanyol and Granada. But it’s crucial they first take maximum points from this game, affording themselves the opportunity to approach the next three fixtures as free hits.
Levante might be propping up the table as things stand but 11 of their 17 points have arrived against the five teams immediately above and Getafe reside just two points above that block of makeweights in 13th, so it’s easy to understand why this is being billed in the local Valencia media as the Granotes' biggest game of the season to date.
Fran Escriba’s men head to Orriols on the back of four straight defeats and an away record looking increasingly desperate after losses at second-from-bottom Granada and resurgent Malaga, conceding three goals in both those matches. It means they’ve now lost nine out of 12 on the road, conceding three goals or more six times.
As such, there has to be value in backing Levante to score over 2.5 goals. From a ratings perspective, their 16-match numbers are pretty much where they want to be. They have six teams beneath them in terms of both shot ratio and expected goals, five of whom they still have to play, Getafe being one of them.
An injection of quality from Giuseppe Rossi could make all the difference here. The Italian forward is on loan at the Ciutat de Valencia for the remainder of the season where he has been given assurances about playing time. Still only 29, the assumption is that he has one eye on a place in the Italian Euro 2016 squad.
Rossi’s impact was always going to be limited as he blew away the cobwebs in games against Sevilla, Barcelona and Eibar but, with 275 minutes under his belt, this could finally be his time to shine and show that he’s the game-changer in the Levante ranks, particularly if Rubi reverts to the 4-3-3 that showed signs of real promise in his first two starts.
If that's the case, then Jose Luis Morales could be a spot of value in the anytime scorer market at 19/5. He bagged four goals in three games prior to Rossi’s arrival and his influence hasn't waned alongside the Italian, recording seven of Levante’s 22 shots at the Sanchez Pizjuan, five of which hit the target, then hit the woodwork in the last home game against Barcelona.
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