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Originally founded as the Levante Football Club in 1909, their name means ‘East’ in reference to the geographical location of the city of Valencia were they are based.
Levante did have two seasons in La Liga in the 1960s, but after that spent decades in the lower leagues, sometimes dropping as low as the fourth tier – though that didn’t stop Johan Cruyff from playing ten games for them in 1981.
They finally returned to the top flight in 2004 and although they have been relegated three times since, they have always been quick to bounce back up, finishing as high as sixth in 2011/12.
Opened in 1969, the Estadi Ciutat de València (City of Valencia Stadium) holds 26,354 people, although it has only been known by that name for the last two decades.
DID YOU KNOW?
Although they have spent most of their history in the shadow of Valencia CF, they are actually the older of the two clubs, although the modern-day UD Levante was formed out of a merger in 1939 with another team, Gimnástico FC.
They kept the Levante name but adopted the Gimnástico colours, which had originally been introduced by a Catalan Jesuit, Narcís Basté, in imitation of those of FC Barcelona.
Granotas (Frogs) is the nickname most often used for Levante. When the merger detailed above took place, Gimnástico were playing at the Estadio de Vallejo. It was located next to an old river bed, home to a large number of frogs, hence the association.
In 2005, Malaga’s Duda had a simple chance to score against Levante but failed to shoot. He later claimed that he’d been freaked by a ghost that had appeared in his path. Apparently, the ashes of dead supporters are scattered at that precise point and ground staff have also seen strange figures wandering near the goalmouth at night.
HEAD TO HEAD
Barça have won all 16 games at home to Levante, including a 3-0 win earlier this season with goals from Memphis, Luuk de Jong and Ansu Fati.
But things have not always gone quite so smoothly at the Ciutat de Valencia. In May 2017, Levante won a freakish encounter 5-4 just when it looked like the Catalans were going to complete an entire season undefeated. They also won 3-1 in November 2019 and the last season's meeting ended 3-3.
Remarkably, home or away, Barça have never failed to score at least one goal against Levante.
Last five meetings:
26/09/21 (LIGA) Barça 3-0 Levante
11/05/21 (LIGA) Levante 3-3 Barça
13/12/20 (LIGA) Barça 1-0 Levante
02/02/20 (LIGA) Barça 2-1 Levante
02/11/19 (LIGA) Levante 3-1 Barça
Nothing was going right for Levante this season. After 19 games and into their third manager they were rooted to the bottom of the table and still looking for their first win when they finally beat Mallorca on January 8.
But in the last couple of months the results have suddenly started to arrive. Levante have only lost two of their last seven matches while managing to pick up three more victories, most impressively a 1-0 win at Atlético Madrid, as well as a 3-0 defeat of Elche and last week’s 2-0 defeat of Champions League quarter finalists Villarreal, a result that means they have finally managed to get off the bottom of the table.
Six points still separate them from the safety zone. However, while first division survival might have looked impossible a few weeks ago, if Levante carry on the way they have been playing in recent weeks, then they may well do it!
Most capped internationals:
Óscar Duarte (Costa Rica, 61), Nikola Vukčević (Montenegro, 44), Enis Bardhi (North Macedonia, 36), Roberto Soldado (Spain, 12), Mickaël Malsa (Martinique, 4), Nemanja Radoja (Serbia, 2), José Campaña (Spain, 1)
Top scorers (Liga 2021/22): José Luis Morales (9), Roger Marti (5), Jorge de Frutos (4)
Left back Enric Franquesa (pictured above) grew up at La Masia but was traded to the Villarreal reserves after just one league game for Barça B. After spending last season on loan to Girona, he joined Levante in the summer.
Reserve goalkeeper Daniel Cárdenas was also in the Barça academy for a short while. Finally, veteran Uruguayan defender Martín Cáceres was part of the 2008/09 treble winning Barça squad under coach Pep Guardiola in his only season as a blaugrana.
After both Paco López and later Javier Pereira had been relieved of their duties, Alessio Lisci has been the mastermind of Levante’s impressive recovery.
The Italian only ever played lower level football in his home country, but after moving to Spain took a post in the Levante youth system while also working in the food trade.
He proved remarkably adept at coaching and progressed from one level to the next before being appointed interim manager of the first team in December, and later being handed the job for the rest of the season.
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