Levante vs Espanyol (16.00). A fixture to quicken the pulse. So many questions, so few people who care about the answers. The second teams from Spain’s second and third cities go head to head in an autumnal clash for the ages.
Paco López’s team come into this game 12th in the table on 11 points. They are unbeaten at home and will see this afternoon’s encounter as an opportunity to open up a substantial gap over a potential rival in the relegation battle to come. However, not all is rosy at the Ciutat de Valencia. The general impression is that Levante have largely rode their luck this season and are fortunate to be where they are. They have struggled to find a consistent combination in terms of a starting XI and there are a few question marks today.
Aitor Fernández will start in goal behind a back four of Miramón, Postigo, Vezo and Clerc. With the enforced absence of Vukcevic, Radoja and Campaña will be joined by either Rubén Rochina or Enis Bardhi in midfield. The front three is difficult to predict but Roger Martí, Morales, Borja Mayoral, Hernani, and Sergio León are all in contention to start.
Playmaker José Campaña has been the star man so far this year, while Roger Martí leads the team with three goals. Watch out for Enis Bardhi. The 24-year-old is a set piece specialist and has taken over from Goran Pandev as the poster boy of the Macedonian national team recently.
Pablo Machín made nine changes to the team that faced Villarreal for Thursday’s win over Ludogorets, and is expected to revert back for this one. The only complication to this approach is the injury picked up by Calleri which will rule him out for a couple of weeks. Ferreyra should lead the line in his place, with Wu Lei and Matías Vargas the favourites to start as inside forwards. Marc Roca could find his foil in the shape of Víctor Sánchez, Darder or Granero. Pedrosa and Víctor Gómez will be crucial in providing enough defensive cover against Levante’s potent wingers, while also springing forward when in possession. Bernardo and Diego López looks like being the only players to start all three games this week, with Naldo and David López continuing their adaption to the back three.
Calero and Piatti join Calleri in the treatment room, while Corchia, Lluís López and Iturraspe have been left out after their midweek exertions.
Levante are unbeaten at home this season, and all of Espanyol’s victories have come on the road. Something has to give and we reckon the blanc-i-blau can pick up a narrow win with a solid defensive display and a headed goal from Bernardo. Leganés’ win over Mallorca yesterday means another pointless performance would leave Espanyol bottom of La Liga. That’s not going to happen though. ¡Vamos Espanyol!