17.30 BST, Sunday 29th October, Estadio Municipal de Ipura (Eibar, Spain)
Eibar come into this game in quite a bit of trouble. Having appeared to make progress in each of their first three seasons in the Spanish top flight, they are in danger of being relegation candidates this time around. 5 games without a win have left them in 17th place, just 1 point above Las Palmas and the bottom 3. After some tough recent fixtures against the like of Barcelona and Real Madrid, it is important that they perform well against more other sides tipped to be in the battle at the bottom.
Newly promoted Levante are enjoying a solid start to the beginning of their La Liga campaign. Back to back 1-1 draws against top 2 Real Madrid and Valencia demonstrate that they are certainly no pushovers. They are, however, without a win in their last 4 league games and need to get back on track as soon as possible with wins at a premium.
Last Time Out
Real Madrid 3-0 Eibar (La Liga)
In their last La Liga fixture, Eibar put on a poor display against a clinical Real Madrid side. Portuguese defender Paulo Oliveira bundled the ball past his own keeper to give Real an early lead. The away side then failed to create many chances of note and gave a Marcus-Asensio-inspired Madrid a pretty easy ride in the end. After Asensio’s delightful first-half finish, Marcelo added some gloss to the scoreline with a goal in the last 10 minutes.
Levante 1-1 Getafe (La Liga)
Levante will be disappointed not to have come away with all three points against the side they beat to the La Liga 2 title last season. A low right-footed effort from Jose Luis Morales cancelled out a strike from Getafe’s Faycal Fajr within only 4 minutes. Les Granotes were marginally outplayed by Getafe in truth and will need to produce more cohesive attacking play if they are to secure a result in Eibar.
Jose Luis Mendilibar will be without a number of important players for this fixture with defender Ivan Ramis and right winger Pedro Leon both still out with knee injuries. Knee problems also keep out central midfielder Fran Rico and winger Ivan Alejo. Goalkeeper Yoel Rodriguez will not return until late December.
Nano Mesa will be out after suffering a cruciate ligament strain last week and will most likely be replaced by Alex Alegria. Young winger Jason will be side-lined until late November whilst both Roger Marti and Ivan Lopez remain long-term injury layoffs.
Key Battle: Dani Garcia (Eibar) vs Enis Bardhi (Levante)
Basque-born Dani Garcia, 27, has the responsibility of trying to protect a brittle Eibar defence. It is no coincidence that Eibar have had their best results this season when Garcia has been at his most solid. He must do his best to maintain his discipline having already picked up 4 yellow cards this season but if he can apply himself he could provide Eibar with an invaluable platform going forward.
Young Macedonian Number 10, Enis Bardhi, has been one of the highlights of Levante’s season so far. As well as chipping in 3 goals from midfield, he poses a constant threat with his direct dribbling and long-range efforts. He should find ample space against an often disorganised Eibar back line.
Can Eibar tighten up at the back?
Having conceded 16 goals in only their last five games, over three goals per game, the first job for Los Armeros is to develop some kind of defensive stability. Conceding six against Barcelona is an occupational hazard of being a La Liga side. Letting in four and two at home against Celta Vigo and Leganes respectively is far more concerning. To have any hope of survival they need to shore up fast.
Can Levante start turning draws into wins?
Levante have more draws (5) than any other side in the league. With more winnable fixtures coming up they must start picking up maximum points if they want to avoid being dragged towards the drop. The majority of their goals have been scored by midfielders: Bardhi and Morales have 3 each. Greater threat is needed from the strike force and Alex Alegria may be given the opportunity to step up and give Levante ore of a clinical edge.
Prediction: Eibar 1-1 Levante
Eibar are on poor form at the moment but this home game provides a perfect opportunity to bounce back. The away side have impressed this season but their lack of ability to convert good performances into victories may cost them again.
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