Just when you thought the La Liga title race couldn’t get any more predictable and one-sided, the football gods throw us a much-needed curveball in the form of this season’s over-achievers Levante – a side very much expected to face another relegation battle this season have had a miraculous turnaround in fortunes and after an impressive start, quite unbelievably sit in the lofty heights of 3rd place in the La Liga table after already claiming scalps off football powerhouses Real Madrid, Malaga and Villareal so far this campaign.
They have little in terms of funds, history and fan-base to boast about and seem to have spent the majority of their footballing lives under the shadow of their much more successful neighbours Valencia but that hasn’t stopped Juan Ignacio Martínez‘s team take Spanish football by storm these past two months. Tomorrow they face Osasuna – a game on current form that looks destined to be Levante’s but what has happened at Ciutat de València recently to spark such a transformation?
Levante are very much a side that have gone back to basics this season. They currently have the meanest defence in the league after only conceding three goals, no doubt thanks to the impeccable leadership of 36 year-old centre back Sergio Ballesteros who has been unplayable so far this domestic campaign.
This combined with their never-say-die team spirit and the resurrection of some of their key players’ careers has seen Levante pull apart every team in their wake so far this year.
Ivory Coast striker Kone is a prime example of how a player can reinvent themselves under a different manager and a new club. Despite never living up to the hype and his 12 million euro price-tag at Sevilla, he has looked one of the league’s most deadly strikers under Levante colours this season netting three goals in eight appearances in the process.
So the real question here is “how long will it last?” With 38 games in a domestic season, one must remember that strength-in-depth is always the key thing to consider for any side in the hunt for European football qualification. Strength-in-depth however is something that Levante sadly lack.
It’s unlikely Levante will be taking down the likes of Los Galacticos and Villareal in three or four months time but the frogs have definitely set themselves up to perform above all expectations this season. Once the demands of domestic football start taking its toll and injuries start creeping into the side, it will be interesting to see manager Martinez’s approach in keeping spirits high in the Levante camp.