After drawing their first two games of the season, Levante fans were hardly expecting their team to compete for a place in Europe. Seven consecutive wins later, Valencia’s less-known first division side were top, even throwing an impressive 1-0 win over Madrid into the bargain.
There’s a certain Hollywood feel about this side – a bunch of old pirates and big team rejects, whom nobody believed in at the start of the season, have managed to defeat one of the most expensive teams in history, and in a convincing manner, too.
Javi Venta and Javier Farinos represent the geriatric side (actually, Farinos is only 33, but it feels like he’s been around for much longer), whilst Arouna Kone and Asier del Horno have previously graced the Champions League for PSV Eindhoven and Chelsea respectively.
Unfortunately, the fairy tale is surely not about to repeat itself at Camp Nou. Barca might be weaker on the road (think of the 2-2 draw with Valencia) but at home, with Real Madrid as their witnesses, they tend to make an example of anybody looking to follow their Liga scent.
They are very unlikely either to draw or lose at home (quoted at 21/2 and 33/1), as they haven’t fallen in Catalonia for over a year, since Hercules beat them two-nil courtesy of a Nelson Valdez double.
Rather, it’s worth looking into the scoreline – especially considering the state of Levante’s defence. That seven-game honeymoon passed the baton to three consecutive defeats, in which the Granotas defended poorly. The 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid is the case in point, with Javi Venta’s “assist” to Diego the icing on the cake.
Levante will, however, try very hard to block Barcelona – so it’s likely they’ll keep the score down, relatively speaking. They’ll be good enough to stop a Barca rout – but will crack eventually. Still, they’ll be helped by Pep Guardiola’s injury list and his desire to rest some players ahead of next week’s Clasico.
How about betting on Barcelona to get only two or three goals? The former outcome is far more interesting, as it’s quoted at 18/5, whilst three or more is on 2/5.
Alexis Sanchez is likely to enjoy this game as Levante’s defensive wing play was poor against Atleti. He’s got a good chance of being picked after a great game against Rayo Vallecano, and consequently 9/2 to open the scoring.
Barcelona’s 3-4-3 formation will also cause Guardiola some problems. He’s lucky that Gerard Pique only got a one game ban – but he’ll need to move a further midfielder back into defence. Levante, for their part, look dangerous on the attack and will, in my opinion, be the first side since AC Milan to score at the Nou Camp (apart from Barca, of course).
They have, for one, a reborn Arouna Kone in attack. The Ivorian has bloomed in this side, the five Liga goals he has scored so far reminding us of the menace he was at PSV – not the serial benchwarmer we saw at the Sanchez Pizjuán. He is 3/1 to score at any time.
The visitors are 23/10 to net once, while a multiple correct home win of 2:1, 3:1 or 4:1 is at 4/1. With the latter option, punting the free £25 bet you get for joining bwin could potentially see you take home a neat £125.
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