Competition news


13 Apr 2013
Depor search to leave the pit as they visit a Levante that’s trying to get the last train to Europe. The Galicians are missing Riki, their top-scorer. Levante are also missing their best attacker, Martins, who left the club on the past month.

Levante UD is comfortably living at the mid-table zone, while Depor are still trying to leave the drop zone, but their scoring records say otherwise. And it’s that the Galicians have scored more goals than the Valencians. Levante have only scored 35 goals, which is the seventh worst mark in la liga, and Depor have scored three more (38).

Los Azulgrana are losing the impulse of the first round and this is clearly reflected in the numbers of goals scored, and it’s that they have only netted eleven goals in the second part of the league tournament, frame of twelve games in which Depor have netted 16, including 9 within the last three liga meetings.

Actually, Depor scored three goals in three straight liga encounters for the first time since April of 2008 (Murcia, Racing & Athletic) -A fourth straight game with three goals in favour will mean a new mark at the club- At the same time, Levante UD have only scored three goals in one single game during this year (Jan 05, 3-1 Vs. Athletic Bilbao), while the Valencians have ended scoreless in three of the last six official meetings. So, both teams are facing different situations at the standings, but their scoring records are showing a different pattern.

The Ciutat de Valencia has been a tough stadium on this season; Levante UD have conquered 8 wins in 14 matches played there; only FC Barcelona (0-4), Real Madrid (1-2), Málaga (1-2) and CA Osasuna (0-2) have won at this stadium, but in recent times Deportivo have had a positive record playing there; and it’s that the Galicians won 4 of the last 5 visits to Levante UD, including the last one: a 1-2 win on the season 2010/11  with goals scored by Riki and Aythami.

The fight for survival is reaching a new dimension for Deportivo, because from now own the rivals in the schedule are, in the major part of the cases, more ambitious teams that are targeting bigger goals. And the fact is that Deportivo have faced problems against these teams. The Galicians have added six victories on this season, and the point is that five of those wins were achieved against four of the rivals that are currently fighting at the bottom of the standings. The only exception was the 1-0 win over Malaga CF (matchday 18).

In the particular case of Levante UD, Depor present a poor record facing the seven clubs that participated in European competitions during the present campaign. They defeated Malaga CF, but in the other nine meetings played so far they only grabbed two draws (3-3 at Valencia CF and 1-1 at Athletic Bilbao) and suffered seven losses (twice against FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, once against Valencia, Atlético Madrid and Levante UD).

So, a new challenge emerges in the horizon of Deportivo: to get the needed points to reach the salvation facing more stable teams, in particular the outfits that matches the needed level in order to play in Europe. After all, six of the remaining eight rivals in the schedule are teams that have aspirations of ending the season in a European seat.

For the match at the Ciutat de Valencia coach Fernando Vázquez has suffered a big hit as striker
Riki has been left out of the game due to an injury. The Madrilenian is the top-scorer at the team (12) and this is the second game that he misses on this season –he was also out injured for the visit to FC Barcelona- Deportivo have only scored four goals on this season with the ex-Getafe man off of the pitch.

In the other hand Manuel Pablo has been declared fit to play and should be a starter. In the end the Galician trainer will be unable to repeat the lineup for the fourth straight opportunity.  There are no expected changes at defense. Daniel Aranzubia covers the goal, Sílvio Azevedo performs at the left-back position and Manuel Pablo does the same on the right.

Aythami Artiles, despite the doubts, keeps performing alongside Carlos Marchena at the centre of the defense. At midfield, Juan Dominguez and Abel Aguilar have a secure place in the pivote functions.

Fernando Vázquez didn’t reveal his plans about who is going to replace Riki up front, but the most probable thing is that Nélson Oliveira is going to claim the spot. The Portuguese attacker has only scored twice on this season; his last goal was scored against Granada CF (1-1, matchday 04). Since then he has spent 603 minutes scoreless distributed in 20 appearances.

The offensive scheme is completed with  Bruno Gama, who arrives after scoring a goal against Real Zaragoza, performing at the right wing, Pizzi, who has remained scoreless within the last eight liga meetings, attacks from the left flank, while Juan Carlos Valerón is the playmaker in the formation.

Together with Riki, the other player at the injury room is Laure. Centre-midfielder André Santos is returning to the list of picked players. It’s the first time the Portuguese is picked for a game after the arrival of Fernando Vázquez. Left winger Javier Camuñas is recovered from his adductor injury, but he wasn’t picked for the game. The other players ruled out for tactical reasons are left-back Evaldo Fabiano, centre-midfielder Jesús Vázquez and central defender Kaká.

Aranzubia talked before the game and explained what Depor have lived in recent weeks, ”We saw that it was complicated after losing against Barcelona, but we won the derby against Celta and, as we had meetings against direct rivals, we realized that things were closer and it was like that. We are one point away, but you cannot relax, because a lot still ahead. Outside here, people thought that Depor were defeated. But we seized our opportunities and have made the most difficult part. In any case, a lot still ahead."

Marchena commented what he’s expecting from this game, ”We aren’t traveling there searching for the draw, but there are a lot of circumstances in a game. We are going to be a daring team, I guess. Later the coach is the one that decides. Right now we have faith, we are putting a lot of pressure in the games and I believe we’re facing a rival that defends pretty well and that’s solid in the counterattack.”

Finally, Pizzi believes that a draw would be an important result for his team, ”We are in a situation in which it would be important to add a point, though we are going out for the victory. We want to keep winning, and if we can go out of relegation now, the better.”

List of picked players (18): Aranzubia, Lux (goalkeepers); Sílvio, Manuel Pablo, Ayoze, Marchena, Aythami, Ze Castro (defenders); Álex Bergantiños, Abel Aguilar, Juan Domínguez, André Santos, Assunção, Bruno Gama, Pizzi, Salomão, Valerón (midfielders) & Nélson Oliveira (striker).

2012 was the best year for Levante UD; it was only the 7th year for the Valencians at the elite of Spanish football and they managed to end sixth at the standings, their best position ever at the elite of Spanish football. To crown it they played the UEFA Europa League for the first time and by December they had only lost once after nine European presentations (1-2 at Hannover 96), reason that allowed them to advance to the round of 32.

But as it happens in the folk tale of Cinderella the midnight hour arrived in 2013 and has transformed the dream into a pumpkin; and it’s that Levante has had a mediocre first trimester, in la liga they have played thirteen games and only won three of them, with four draws and losing the other six, for this reason the team fell into the eleventh positions at the standings and lies seven points below the European Zone. They were also eliminated in Copa by Real Zaragoza.

Things were slightly better in the Europa League as they eliminated Olympiacos FC, but didn’t pass the round of 16 been kick-off by Russian FC Rubin Kazan in the extra-time. Now coach Juan Ignacio Martínez ‘JIM’ is trying to regain part of the old form in order to secure, once and for all, the permanence and, if it’s possible, fight for a spot in a new European tournament.

However, he must face a big problem that’s menacing the dream: the lack of goals. Nigerian Obafemi Martins, the top-scorer at the team with seven goals in liga, left the club last month in order to join the MLS and his substitute, Robert Acquafresca, isn’t matching the expectations. As a result of this Los Levantinos have just scored five goals in seven official matches disputed between March and April ending scoreless in three of those meetings.

In any case, there won’t be too many changes compared to the 4-2-3-1 squad used in recent matchdays. The main novelty is the return of veteran David Navarro, who returns from a suspension in order to join Sergio Ballesteros at the centre of the defense. The defensive line is completed with ex-Depor Gustavo Munúa defending the goal, German Christian Lell performs at the right-back position and ex-Celta man Juanfran covers the left.

Vicente Iborra and Senegalese Papakouly Diop perform at midfield territory, Andalusian Pedro Ríos attacks from the right wing; José Javier Barkero is the other big novelty as the former Real Sociedad covers the left wing, while ex-Depor Miguel Alfonso Herrero ‘Michel’ performs in the playmaking function.

With the exit of Martins both Barkero and Michel are now the main reference in attack for the Valencians, this since each player has netter five goals in liga. The doubt is who is going to perform at the centre of the attack as JIM still searching for a fixed reference. The options are Italian Acquafresca, who has only scored once since his arrival, and Roger Martí Salvador, a 22-year-old striker from Levante B that has scored 17 goals at Segunda B. He already played ten games at Primera, two of them as a starter; he already scored once in la liga

Michel talked with the media before the game; he said that Levante must secure the permanence before thinking of Europe, ”We are only thinking of staying at Primera División for one more season. They come for the three points in order to save themselves and we are trying to confirm the permanence. So, both sides are going out until death, it’s going to be pretty. The first thing is to add in order to be tranquil and later to think of the European positions.”

Winger Pedro Ríos also talked of the subject, ”We will fight until the end in order to conquer things at the reach of our hands, and the Europa League remains among our options. There are teams having an easier scenario due to their current position, but as long as we have options the team is going to fight until the end and let’s see how far we can go.” Finally, he talked of Depor, ”They are eager to leave the drop zone and it’s a dangerous team. They’re demonstrating that they shouldn’t be there due to the squad that they have.”

List of picked players (19): Munúa, Keylor Navas (goalkeepers); Navarro, Vyntra, Juanfran, Ballesteros, Pedro López, Chris (defenders); Barkero, El Zhar, Iborra, Pedro Ríos, Juanlu, Michel, Diop, Simao (midfielders); Acquafresca, Rubén & Roger (strikers).

Levante: (4-2-3-1) Munúa – Lell, Ballesteros, Navarro, Juanfran – Iborra, Diop – Pedro Ríos, Míchel, Barkero – Acqufresca or Roger
Deportivo: (4-2-3-1) Aranzubia – Manuel Pablo, Marchena, Aythami, Sílvio – Abel Aguilar, Juan Domínguez – Bruno Gama, Valerón, Pizzi – Oliveira.
Referee: Xavier Estrada Fernández
Kick-off: 18h00 CET (Ciutat de Levante)
Head-to-head Vs. Levante: 14 wins for Depor, 1 draw, 12 wins for Levante (Primera & Segunda)
Record in Levante: 4 wins for Depor, 0 draws, 9 wins for Levante (Primera & Segunda)



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