Los Granotes go into battle with their newly promoted rivals, aiming to move further away from the drop zone...
Levante and Real Sociedad were both celebrating in June when it was confirmed that they would be playing top flight football this season. Now the teams who finished third and first respectively in last term’s Segunda Division are beginning to appreciate the realities of the top flight, and both will be seeking three important points on Sunday afternoon.
Los Granotes had an extremely difficult start to the season but have started to equip themselves better after receiving three defeats in their opening three matches. A 1-0 victory in Almeria got some positive momentum going, and that has been continued by a stunning draw against Real Madrid and then a stalemate against Osasuna.
In the opening two weeks of action, the Valencia side had conceded eight times; in the subsequent three matches they’ve lost only one goal, shutting out los Blancos in the process. Levante have specialised in soaking up pressure – they’ve not even achieved 40 per cent possession in their last three games – but it’s a technique that’s working for them.
Of course, safety is yet a long way off. It is in matches such as Sunday’s that los Granotes must really lay down their marker if they are to achieve survival.
Levante may have started the season slowly, but they’ve come onto a game. The opposite can be said of Real Sociedad to some extent. The Basques picked up three tremendous points on the opening day when they defeated Villarreal 1-0, yet after a draw against Almeria the following week, the Txuri-urdin suffered three successive defeats.
A fourth loss in a row would have left la Real with a very sour taste going into the international break, but they brushed themselves down and scored a narrow 1-0 success over Espanyol, which came about thanks to an own goal five minutes from time.
Coach Martin Lasarte was quick to praise goalkeeper Claudio Bravo after the game, and the Chilean goalkeeper has already proven his worth to the Basque outfit on a number of occasions this season, though Real would doubtless like to have their goalkeeper enjoy some quieter evenings over the coming months.
Last term, Sociedad suffered a rare defeat in Levante, going down 1-0 against a team who excelled at home. Back in the Basque Lands, they picked up a relatively comfortable 3-1 success against the same opponents, and it is that kind of performance that they’ll seek at the weekend.
Vicente Iborra will miss out after picking up a problem at training this week. Rafa Jorda won’t be involved either; he is injured.
There has been some good news for los Granotes; Javi Venta, Sergio Ballesteros and Asier Del Horno are all back at full capacity.
Jeffrey Sarpong has been tipped to get a start this week as injury problems are liable to keep Paco Sutil and Antoine Griezmann sidelined. The latter is only doubtful, having suffered a mild muscular injury.
On the other hand, Joseba Llorente has indicated that he wants to be involved more regularly after struggling for minutes following an injury early in the season.