2012-04-14 LEVANTE-BARCELONA 19

Levante had their best season in their 103 year history last year, making a great start to the campaign that actually saw them leading for a couple of weeks early on. With a relatively small budget and using many players cast off from bigger teams, Levante provided a breath of fresh air and many Spanish fans were pleased to see them getting a place in the Europa League. Juan Ignacio Martinez is now in his second season at the club after taking over as coach from Luis Garcia, who laid down the foundations of the current team, which continue to base their success on dogged resistance and a great team spirit – backed up by a vociferous and committed home crowd.

Current Form

Levante currently sit fourth in La Liga with 20 points and they booked a place in the next round of the Europa League on Thursday with a 1-3 win away to Helsingborgs. After a disappointing start to the season that saw them lose their first three away games to Valladolid, Malaga and Osasuna, Levante have taken seven points from their last three on the road. Add that to a great home record that has seen them win four, draw against Atletico Madrid and go down narrowly in their last match to Real Madrid and Levante fans are beginning to look forward to another exciting season.

Last year’s game

Two goals from Leo Messi led what fcbarcelona.cat called “a confidence boosting fightback” in May of this year after Barkero had opened the scoring for Levante. Cuenca, who came on in the second half for Xavi, put in a good performance for Guardiola’s team, setting up the first and winning the penalty that Messi fired home to take the points. The win left Barça just five points behind Real Madrid who were due at the Camp Nou the week after. Barça’s starting line-up was Valdés, Puyol, Mascherano, Dani Alves, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Alexis Sánchez and Messi.

One to watch

Levante’s leading league scorer this season is the Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins, with five goals. Martins started his career in Europe with Inter Milan, before moving to Newcastle United where he enjoyed three very successful seasons with 28 goals in 88 league appearances, before signing for Wolfsburg for 9 million pounds. After a year at Rubin Kazan he was sent out on loan to Birmingham City, where he famously scored the late winner in the 2011 League Cup final against Arsenal. He joined Levante in September this year on a two year contract and has so far scored against Deportivo, Granada(2), Valencia and Real Sociedad