LEVANTE - REAL MADRID
Madrid's young guns lead the recovery against Levante
Lucas Vasquez, Mayoral and Isco impact with good showings from Nacho and Casemiro. Bottom side Levante put up a decent fight but in the end don't trouble the capital visitors.
The first half took a while to get going - especially for the boys in white who were visiting Valencia to lift some of the gloom that has been surrounding the club in recent weeks - and the early chances were created by an energetic Levante side. There was little to separate the sides who lay in third and 20th position prior to this evening's schedule and after half an hour you would be hard pushed to pick the team that had accumulated 34 more points than their opponent. But it always felt like something was going to ignite the match. And in the 34th minute Cristiano was handed a penalty after Lucas was tripped as he made his way into the danger area from the right-hand side. It was duly dispatched.
Four minutes later an unfortunate OG for Marino in Levante's goal doubled the lead. A shot from outside the box hit the left hand upright firmly and as it rebound out the sprawling keeper could do nothing to prevent it hitting him and rolling back over his line. Done and dusted. Well, no.
Within five minutes Levante had pulled one back. A long pass forward broke and Devyerson was put in to slot home passed Navas. Game on.
As the teams got into the action after the break there very quickly seemed to be a different feel about the game. Madrid were getting more chances - some just shots from distance - but the tide was edging more and more towards the Levante goal. This pattern was consistent throughout the half with the home side looking to break quickly and pass their way behind the white defence. At times the game got stretched. A boot with longer studs or an extra shoelace of curl on an inswinger could have changed the game either way earlier. In the end, a break down the inside right channel by Ronaldo who looked up and centred the ball back to the onrushing Isco (on in the 80th minute for a quiet James) who cushioned the ball firmly out of the reach of the home keeper concluded the contest.
Next up for Madrid is the visit of Celta on Saturday. Let's see how many of his squad are available for Zidane to select from. Tonight again there were visible knocks taken to players such as Kroos and Lucas. Levante are away to Real Sociedad in search of much needed points.
Following the fall-out from Saturday's Madrid derby, Zidane opts for change. With his squad plagued by injury the French coach calls up Castilla players Odegaard and Borja Mayoral. With next weeks critical Champions League tie against Roma looming, the 43 year old looks to a rejuvenation process for tonight's LaLiga game against bottom of the pile Levante.
The French coach takes his side to Valencia with seven absentees (Carvajal and Ramos missing through suspension and Benzema, Marcelo, Bale, Arbeloa and Modric all out through injury). It's anticipated that Lucas Vázquez and Mayoral will start the game with Isco and Jese starting on the bench.
Borja Mayoral is the great white hope. The 18 year old having scored 148 goals in his three seasons with Real Madrid's youth set-up and he's been on target 7 times alone in this season's UEFA Youth League. Starting him today is a gesture of faith in the player from Parla rather than a move trying to make a point.
The same can't be said about Odegaard's inclusion in the travelling squad. The Norwegian has been playing poorly for Castilla this season and yet to find the back of the net for the 2B side. His inclusion seems to be somewhat unjustified based on current form.
Tonight's opposition Levante are not without their own problems. After recent games against Eibar and Villarreal, their own supporters jeered the players with shouts of "mercenaries" after the poor display in both games with fans returning shirts that had been thrown to the stand as a manner of protest about the teams performances. Coach Rubi will be inspired by Atleti's game plan at the Bernabeu and will look for his attacking prowess of : Deyverson, Rossi and Morales to trouble the Madrid rear-guard.
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