Eleven matches into the new La Liga season, fans of the smaller clubs in the division would hope to have an indication of how the rest of their season will develop.
However, the bookies at bwin are seemingly toying with the followers of Levante. Despite a decent start that leaves them in sixth place, the club are rated at similar odds for relegation (20/1) as the top four (14/1).
They must reckon that mid-table obscurity is Levante’s destiny next May, but Juan Ignacio’s gritty side would certainly beg to differ.
Given that the team from Valencia suffered a narrow and unfortunate 2-1 defeat at home to Real Madrid at the weekend due to a late Alvaro Morata winner, a lengthening of their top four odds from 11/1 to 14/1 looks a little strange.
When you consider that Levante were just three points shy of the top four at the end of last season, the plot thickens.
Admittedly, they rarely hit swashbuckling form going forward with their regimented 4-5-1 system, scoring a poor 13 goals this season and ensuring that it is only their red-and-blue striped home shirts that can see them confused with Barcelona.
They miss last season’s top scorer Arouna Kone, who departed for Wigan Athletic in the summer, but if Levante’s mean defence can remain in unforgiving mood then they have every chance of bridging the two-point gap to fourth by the end of the season.
Cristiano Ronaldo certainly felt the weight of their ‘commitment’ to his cost, sustaining a nasty-looking eye injury in a challenge with David Navarro which forced him to be substituted (not before scoring the opening goal though, of course).
And reports of a bust-up in the tunnel after the final whistle of the Real Madrid match suggest they don’t pull their punches off the pitch, either.
Typifying the club’s pluckiness is 37-year-old defensive stalwart Sergio Ballesteros, who offers a powerful physical presence (not to mention waistline) which is uncommon in Spanish football.
Ballesteros is something of a cult figure and was plastered all over sports daily ‘Marca’ following the weekend defeat after allegedly punching Real defender Pepe in the face in the post-match flare-up.
Odds as short as 20/1 on Levante to go down are presumably based on the club’s lack of top-flight pedigree, but with two years of La Liga football behind them and a host of 30-somethings in their line up, it won’t be for a lack of experience if they do go on to struggle this season.
Despite the great form of Atletico Madrid, who won 2-0 over Getafe at the weekend, the chance of Levante sneaking a top-four berth makes a cheeky 14/1 punt worthwhile for me.
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