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PREVIEW: DEPORTIVO – LEVANTE (LIGA)

20 Mar 2011
Lotina recovers Manuel Pablo and Guardado ahead of one of the “finals” for the permanence; meanwhile Levante visits the Riazor living its best moment at Primera and with Caicedo threatening Aranzubia.

STATISTICS: LEVANTE IS ON FIRE
This is the best moment of Levante in its five-year career at Primera División; the Valencians haven’t been defeated within the last four liga matches –a record at the club- and their 0-2 defeat at Real Madrid on matchday 24 is the only spark for the team since the end of January.

Before the setback against the Madrilenians, Levante had clinched three straight wins –another record at the club- against teams of the entity of Getafe FC and Villarreal FC. For this reason Levante UD is, tied with neighbor Valencia FC, the third best team in the second round with seventeen points added within the last nine games, just behind the two giants Barcelona (23) and Real Madrid (22). 

Meanwhile, Deportivo is just the 12th best team in the second round, with 10 points added in the period. The Galicians still presenting an erratic behavior when they play outside home, but are presenting decent results at the Riazor, place where they have only lost two matches: 0-2 Vs. UD Almeria (matchday 05) and 0-4 Vs. Barcelona (matchday 18).

At least Depor has presented solid numbers each time that Levante has visited the Riazor, because Los Granotes have not only missed to win in La Coruña playing at Primera División, but also to score a goal after four visits there. The only win of Levante at the Riazor occurred at Segunda División, it happened on the season 1979/80, infamous campaign in which Depor was relegated to Segunda División B.

DEPORTIVO: THE KEY IS THE RIAZOR
The Riazor is pointed out as the key in the quest for the permanence; because six of the last ten matchdays remaining in Depor’s calendar will be disputed at home, which means eighteen golden points that will secure the safety. And now the Galicians are having two straight meetings in La Coruña (the other against Mallorca after the international break), reason why some people believe that this is the most crucial moment on the season as those six points will guide the road to higher lands.

But Deportivo is arriving to this crossroad without presenting a solid record at home, it is true that the Galicians have just lost twice at the Riazor, but it´s also true that they have only won five times at home as the other six games meant a tasteless draw for them. In the end Depor is just the 15th best home team on the liga season and this stat must change in order to reach the goal of the salvation.

And the players are aware of it, as Aythami told to reporters during the week, “We must seize these two straight games and add the six points at the Riazor. We must go out for everything and win at any cost. We all together must convert the Riazor into a solid place.”

Similar were the thoughts of Juan Rodriguez, “At the Riazor we feel more comfortable, we feel stronger and with plenty of confidence, and we must exploit this situation. The rest of teams have more problems to defeat us, especially if the fans are supporting us throughout the ninety minutes.”

Guardado was even giving a big weight to the next two games that will be disputed at the Riazor, “To defeat both Levante and Mallorca will mean the 90% of the permanence. We are conscious that it is complicated, seeing their statistics of the rivals they are doing a nice job. People are conscious that they are an important part in the quest for the permanence, so we hope to receive a warm welcome.”

For the game against Levante, it seems that the injuries are giving a break to Deportivo; it’s true that Claudio Morel (adductor) is out of the team, but Lotina is recovering Manuel Pablo (hamstring), Guardado (tireness) and Antonio Tomás (illness), plus suspended duo Colotto and Ruben Pérez. In the end there are only four players at the injury room: Morel, Xisco, Valerón and Riki.

There are other three players missing the game, two right wingers and a central defender, the first is Javito, whose transfer case will be studied by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS) on next week. The second is Pablo Álvarez, who was sent off in the past match against RCD Espanyol. The third is Ze Castro, who wasn’t picked due to tactical reasons.

In the end Lotina will still playing with a 4-2-3-1 scheme; Daniel Aranzubia will be at the goal, Laureano Sanabria ´Laure´’ will perform on the right-back position, the central positions will be for Diego Colotto and Albert Lopo, duo that will play together for the first time after two matches, while Manuel Pablo will perform on the left side.

It means the game number 25 for the Canarian defender on this season and therefore his automatic renewal. It also means that he is clinching his season number 14 at the club. So far he accumulated 308 matches at Primera, which is the third highest mark at Deportivo, only surpassed by the records of Fran (435) and Mauro Silva (369).

Rubén Pérez returns to midfield territory in order to join Juan Rodriguez on the pivote functions; Adrian is moving to the right wing and Andrés Guardado returns to the left wing; Michel will be the playmaker in the formation. The doubt is who will be the starting striker, the candidates are José Sand and Lassad Nouioui. The first player hopes to be a starter after been on the bench in the past two games, the second is now totally fit to play after surpassing an ankle sprain. In the end six changes compared to the squad that lost against RCD Espanyol.

Lassad Nouioui talked before the meeting and was warning of the rival’s potential, ”It is a dangerous team, both playing at home and away. They already demonstrated it at Villarreal, not anyone can win there and they did it.”  He was also assuring that he is fit to play, ”I see myself with more sparkle than at the start of the season. The problem in the ankle is forgotten. I’m wishing to score once again.”

List of picked players (20): Aranzubia, Manu (goalkeepers); Manuel Pablo, Lopo, Colotto, Aythami, Laure, Seoane (defenders); Rubén Pérez, Antonio Tomás, Juan Rodríguez, Juca, Juan Domínguez, Guardado, Desmarets, Saúl, Michel (midfielders); Lassad, Adrián and Sand (strikers).

LEVANTE: CAICEDO & A SOLID DEFENSE
The miraculous resurrection of Levante in the second round has been marked by two important factors: the goals of striker Felipe Caicedo and the solid work of the defense. Ecuadorian attacker Caicedo has added eleven goals to his tally during this liga season, and he has scored four of the ten goal of Levante in the second round.

These numbers are even surprising Caicedo himself, as he was expecting to only score 10 or 12 goals on the season, now he targets 17, as he told to AS during the week, ”I was thinking of scoring 10 or 12 goals when I arrived, and sincerely I didn’t expect to have this number at this stage of the season. Now the coach has told me that I should reach the mark of 16 or 17 goals and hope to get it. Right now I would put me a note of 7 or 8. I’m still young and still have to learn a lot.”

In the meantime, the other reason why Levante has been a strong team during the second round is located at the defensive sector. Los Granotas have leaked 39 goals on the season, which is the 9th worst mark at Primera, but things have been radically different in the second round as the Valencian team has only conceded 9 goals since matchday 20, which is the 6th best mark in the period.

The team has even clinched four clean sheet within the last eight liga meetings: 2-0 Vs. Getafe (matchday 21), 1-0 at Villarreal (matchday 22), 1-0 Vs. UD Almeria (matchday 23) and 1-0 Vs. CD Espanyol (matchday 27). These two reasons explains why the team managed by young coach Luis Garcia Plaza has passed from been in relegation to be living six points above the pit, all of that in just a few matchdays. A big success for them, especially taking in mind that Levante has the smaller budget at Primera División (€10 million)

For the game against Depor, Luis García is preparing two modifications compared to the squad that drew with RCD Mallorca. The first one is the entry of Juanfran Garcia replacing injured Asier Del Horno on the left-back position. The other is the entry of Ecuadorian Jefferson Montero to the right wing; he already played six times since joining the team during the winter window, but this is his first presence as a starter.

It is a 4-2-3-1 draw, with Gustavo Munúa at the goal, ex-Villarreal Javi Venta will cover the right-back position; Sergio Ballesteros and former Betis man Victoriano Rivas’ Nano’ will cover the centre of the defense, while Juanfran will play on the left side.

At midfield, Vicente Iborra and Xavi Torres will be the two pivotes, the entry of Montero on the right is moving Valmiro Lopes ´Valdo’ to the playmaking function, Juan Luis Gómez ‘Juanlu’, who scored the goal in the 1-1 draw with Mallorca, is playing on the left wing and the central attacker will be Felipe Caicedo. Ex-Depor man Sergio is out of the game due to a muscular problem.

Before the game, another ex-Depor man, goalie Gustavo Munúa, was confessing that he is happy to return to the Riazor, ”It’s always pretty to return to La Coruña. They trusted in me during a tough moment, just when I didn’t have an EU passport and that’s a big problem for a goalkeeper. I will always be thankful with them, because when I arrived they were one of the greatest teams in the world.”

Later, the Uruguayan talked of the situation at the standings, ”We still have ten matchdays ahead and for now things depend on us. I am not looking at the points that we need to be saved. We don’t fear any rival. This is one of the so called small clubs, but still a Primera club and we must demonstrate it.”

Finally, left winger Juanlu Gómez was saying that Levante is feeling more calmed as it lying six points above the pit, ”A lot of teams will love to be in our situation; but we don’t feel relaxed. We are carrying out with a good streak of results, and if we would be like in the past then we would be facing each game as a final, as it happened before against Getafe. Now hope has allowed us to keep the same attitude and seeing things in a different way.”

List of picked players (19): Reina, Munúa (goalkeepers); Nano, Cerra, Rodas, Juanfran, Javi Venta, Ballesteros (defenders); Xisco Nadal, Iborra, Pallardó, Xavi Torres, Xisco Muñoz, Juanlu, Valdo, Montero (midfielders); Stuani, Caicedo and Rubén Suárez (strikers).

PROBABLE LINEUPS
Deportivo: (4-2-3-1) Aranzubia – Laure, Colotto, Lopo, Manuel Pablo – Rubén Pérez, Juan Rodriguez – Adrián, Michel, Guardado – Lassad or Sand
Levante: (4-2-3-1) Munúa - Javi Venta, Ballestero, Nano, Juanfran - Xavi Torres, Iborra – Montero, Valdo, Juanlu - Caicedo.
Referee: Carlos Clos Gómez (14 games on the season, 9 wins for the local team)
Kick-off: 17h00 CET (Riazor)
Head-to-head Vs Levante: 13 wins for Depor, 1 draw, 9 wins for Levante (Primera & Segunda)
Record at the Riazor: 9 wins for Depor, 1 draw, 1 win for Levante (Primera & Segunda)

ARCHIVE NEWS MARCH/11

ZAPPING

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