PHOTO: ARCHIVE FCB

Levante were founded in 1909 and despite living in the shadow of their bigger city neighbour Valencia, they did enjoy some success in the 1930s, reaching the Spanish Cup semi finals in 1935 after seeing off both Valencia and Barça. Levante also won the “Free Spain Cup” during the civil war – a tournament held between teams in the Republican held territories. This competition was recognised as official by the Spanish Parliament in 2007, although the Spanish footballing authorities subsequently upheld the Francoist government’s post war decision to deny it legitimacy.

Levante were named after the wind which whipped round their original beachfront ground, but after the civil war they were forced to move, eventually building the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in the late 1960s. By that time, they had made their debut in the top flight – playing their first game against Espanyol in Barcelona, where they drew 4-4. They lasted just two seasons though and didn’t return for nearly 40 years, finally winning promotion in the 2003/04 season under Manolo Preciado.

The team were relegated and promoted again twice during the first decade of the century, but after their last promotion in 2010, they have enjoyed two seasons of success, first under Luis Garcia – who spent three years at the club between 2008 and 2011 and helped them to a 10th place finish last season, and this year under Juan Ignacio Martinez.

FORM GUIDE

It’s been a great season for Levante, who have spent much of the campaign in the top four and achieved a notable win over Real Madrid during a nine game unbeaten start to the season . Their progress is particularly notable given that Levante have the lowest budget in the division – 23 million Euros. Levante currently lie in fifth place on 48 points, two behind Malaga in fourth and two above sixth place Osasuna.

After a difficult January and February, when they won just one of their opening eight games of 2012, Levante have recovered and before their midweek defeat to Sporting they had won five of their previous eight games. Levante have won 9 of their 16 matches at the Ciutat de Valencia so far this season, lost 4 and drawn 3, scoring 26 goals and conceding 16.

ONE TO WATCH

Ivory Coast striker Araouna Koné is Levante’s leading scorer this season, with 13 goals and Juan Ignacio Martinez will surely do everything possible to play him against Barça despite his fitness problems. The African is currently on loan from Seville, who signed him for a then record club fee of 12 million Euros from PSV in 2007.

A serious knee injury cut short his progress at Seville, who also loaned him out to Hannover in 2010, but this season he has been a key part in Levante’s success and is just one goal away from becoming their highest ever goalscorer in the top flight.