A match between Real Madrid and whoever are last in La Liga that particular week is usually not especially worth noting. This time, though, with Real Madrid coming off a gut-punch loss to Atletico Madrid and starting to fall too far behind in the title race, this match against Levante takes on a new degree of importance.
Sure, you could argue that Madrid gave up on the title race when they fired Rafa Benitez, but that doesn't change the fact that there's still an expectation that they be competitive. Right now, they're 12 points behind Barcelona and seven behind Atletico. That's not competitive. That's not going to fly with Madrid's fans or leadership. And if they lose or draw again and Villarreal catch them in the standings, the reaction will be ... well, let's just say the reaction will be very bad and leave it at that.
Key player — Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Here's the thing about complaining that your teammates are not on your level: you need to go out and prove that your level is really so much higher than theirs is so you have a leg to stand on. Sure, he walked the statement back by saying that he was talking about Madrid's perfectly legitimate injury woes, but that does not change the fact that he's going to look real stupid if he doesn't go out and kick the snot out of the last-place team in La Liga, as well as the side that's given up the fourth-most goals in the league.
Key matchup — Giuseppe Rossi (Levante) vs. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Since he arrived on loan this winter, Rossi has been about the only thing worth much of anything in Levante's attack. They're the third-worst strikeforce in the league, but he's put a spark back into them that had been conspicuously absent without him. He has to provide that spark in this match while facing down Ramos, though, which will prove a tough task for his oft-injured legs — but Ramos' penchant for occasional bouts of insanity on the pitch could just kick the door open for Rossi to have a special moment and turn this into a real game.
Levante injuries and suspensions
Out: Pedro Lopez
Real Madrid injuries and suspensions
Out: Marcelo In doubt: Karim Benzema, Pepe, Gareth Bale, Alvaro Arbeloa
Match Date/Time: Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. local
Venue: Estadio Ciudad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. - English), beIN Sports en Español (U.S. - Spanish), Canal+ Partidazo (Spain), Sky Sports 1/HD (U.K.)
Online: beIN Sports Connect, Fubo TV (U.S.), Sky Go (U.K.)