The game’s up for Levante. There’s no doubt they had the stomach for this relegation scrap, if not necessarily the organisation needed to haul themselves out of trouble, but sending them last into battle on a weekend when they already had a mountain to climb just seems cruel. With three of the four teams immediately above them winning, they simply don’t stand a chance now.
Yet typically, the Granotes will take on board those rousing victories for Sporting Gijon, Granada and Getafe, and respond in kind with all guns blazing. In all likelihood, though, a gung-ho attitude will only lead them to the trapdoor that bit quicker and the outcome at La Rosaleda could be messy, just as it was at Los Carmenes a 11 days ago.
In their determination to take the game to Granada, Rubi’s men were unhinged after 25 minutes and found themselves 3-0 down by half-time. The eventual 5-1 scoreline wasn’t really reflective of the game - Levante won the overall shot count 16-15 - but some of their defending was slapstick and they weren’t helped by a couple of very dubious handball calls that rewarded the home team with penalties at 1-0 and 3-1.
The home game with Athletic Bilbao three days later merely reinforced the idea that survival isn’t meant to be. Sitting on a 2-0 lead with just a couple of minutes remaining, Levante somehow contrived to draw the game 2-2 as the Basques found the net with their last two attacks. In the energy-sapping heat of a midday kick-off, it was a game they should have closed out.
But that’s Levante this season in a nutshell. Had you offered Rubi a 51 per cent shot ratio at the start of April, he probably would have taken it, not believing for a second that it would yield only five points from five matches. Traditionally, the Granotes are used to squeezing a lot out of very little, yet it’s too late for them to being anything other than proactive now.
Malaga’s season was expected to go from strength to strength when Javi Gracia was presented with the opportunity to field his strongest 11 on the final straight but disappointing draws against Espanyol and Granada have prefixed a five-game winless run during which only two goals have been scored. However, results elsewhere this weekend mean they can reclaim eighth spot.
The Boquerones don’t win by significant margins too often but the long-term shot data suggests they are value to do so here and handicap bets on Malaga -1 and Malaga -2 are both worthy of a speculative interest at 10/3 and 9/1, if only for the possibility that Levante’s desperation to rescue a bad situation leads to them naively over-committing time and time again.
Click here for more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system