Real Madrid vs Levante Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battles, Team News & More
Real Madrid host Levante in La Liga's midday kick-off on Saturday, and Zinedine Zidane will be adamant that his side respond to their recent draw with Valencia by claiming all three points.
With the return of Sergio Ramos amongst their starting line-up, Los Blancos head into their home tie as sure fire favourites to come away with a win after an underwhelming performance before the international break.
However, Levante have had a good start to their season, unbeaten in their opening two matches against Villareal and Deportivo. Currently sat on equal points with their Madrid based opponents, the visitors will be hoping to shock the masses with a win, and kick on with a very impressive opening few weeks.
Here's everything you need to know ahead of Saturday's clash at the Santiago Bernabeu:
Classic Encounter: Levante 2-3 Real Madrid (October 2013)
It's rare that Madrid fans are ever sat desperately hoping for their team to find a last minute winner, but that's exactly what they had to endure in October 2013.
A game that started out as a tedious affair suddenly burst into life on 57 minutes when the home side found an unlikely opener. Baba Diawara kicked off what would finish an intense match with a beautifully timed half-volley.
However, the lead didn't even last five minutes. Madrid's goal-scoring centre-back Sergio Ramos managed an equaliser in the 61st, only for Nabil El Zhar to seemingly seal the winner four minutes before time - which would've handed Levante an incredible victory.
However, Carlo Ancelotti's men were resilient, and a 90th minute equaliser from Alvaro Morata was only bettered by the eventual winning goal from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 94th. Madrid made their fans sweat, but managed to get there in the end of what became a fascinating final half hour.
Sergio Ramos vs Alex Alegria
Levante's biggest hopes in this encounter will come through the performance of Alex Alegria. With Roger Marti and Nano both injured, as well as a suspension to wide man Jose Morales, Alegria's teammates will be looking for the on-loan Betis man to lead the way.
Though starting both of Levante's matches this season, the youngster is yet to find the back of the net. However, if the forward can make the most of Ramos' tendency to dive into tackles, the forward could well kick-off his season with a potentially crucial goal against Zidane's men.
Marco Asensio vs Ivan Lopez
This is where Madrid fans will be getting excited. The rapid speed of Asensio against the not-so-fleet-footed Lopez has the potential to cause Levante all sorts of problems.
If the young Spaniard can continue the kind of form he's been showing since the back end of last season, he'll be too much for any La Liga defence to handle, let alone Levante's. In Cristiano Ronaldo's absence, Asensio is the man to turn to.
Real Madrid head into this game with the much appreciated return of previously suspended Sergio Ramos.The same cannot be said for Raphael Varane, though. The Frenchman remains sidelined with muscular problems and his return is so far unknown.
Cristiano Ronaldo is set to miss two more matches (including Saturday's) before his suspension is finished, and Los Blancos will be without summer signing Dani Ceballos - who is still recovering from injury.
The visitors are quite severely weakened in their attacking line this week - missing three players who could make quite a difference to the side. Last season's star man Roger Marti continues to miss out through his ruptured cruciate ligament - expected to return in January. Meanwhile, Nano misses out with a muscle injury sustained at the beginning of August.
Left winger Jose Morales will be a big miss for Levante. The wide man had shown a promising start to the season before he received his marching orders in the club's 2-2 draw with Deportivo before the international break.
Predicted Starting XI's:
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, Isco, Asensio, Benzema, Bale
Levante (4-2-3-1): Fernandez, Lopez, Postigo, Chema, Tono, Campana, Lerma, Jason, Bardhi, Ivi, Alegria
Predicted Score: Real Madrid 4-1 Levante
Anything other than a Madrid rout will be a big surprise. With Levante's depleted attack, the visitors will have little to offer going forward - and Madrid can easily be seen pinning them into their own third like cattle in front of the Bernabeu crowd.
With Madrid's ridiculous midfield and attacking threat, it won't be a question of 'if' they score, nor will it be 'when' they score - but 'how many more' will they score?