Over the last two seasons, Levante have been a thorn of the side of Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho. They handed Madrid a 0-0 draw in Valencia a season ago, then improved that result with a 1-0 home win over Madrid earlier this year. Their defense is one of the strongest in La Liga, and they have proved continuously difficult for opponents to break down.
Unlike last season, when Levante were average but very frustrating to Madrid, they've been frustrating to everyone this season. More than halfway into the season, their record can no longer be called a fluke. They may very well be the fourth best team in Spain. Even if they don't have the budget or raw talent to conceivably duplicate these results on a regular basis, they've found away to repeat them against solid teams, over and over. Home and away, against all different kinds of opposition, their defense has been spectacular.
They should not, however, get a result on Sunday. Though Levante have recorded good results home and away, they are significantly less formidable away from home. Last season, after their 0-0 home draw against Madrid, they lost 2-0 at the Bernabeu. Sami Khedira and Angel di Maria are finally fit for Madrid and will at least feature in the 18, if they don't start.
If Real Madrid scores early, there is almost certainly no way back for Levante. But the longer they go without conceding, the more frustrated Madrid will get and the more likely a goal for the Bats will become.
Real Madrid vs. Levante
Game Date/Time: Sunday, February 12, 3:30 p.m. ET, 9:30 p.m. local
Venue: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
TV: GolTV (Canada), Sky Sports 1 (UK)
Online: ESPN3 (USA)
For more on Los Merengues, check out Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid.