Levante vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things We Learned
How often is Spanish football ruined by weather?
Even so, Jose Mourinho's side managed to seal a late win. Plenty of talking points arose during the 90 minutes—most of which were centred around the football and not a waterlogged pitch.
Let's take a look at six things we learned from this intriguing battle.
Real Madrid Need Cristiano Ronaldo to Stay Fit
Cristiano Ronaldo may have only managed 45 minutes against Levante, but his influence set Madrid up for victory.
The Portuguese superstar was unlucky to receive a brutal thump in the opening minutes. His eyes bloody and bruised, Ronaldo still managed to net his team's first goal. Although his overall play wasn't as direct and energetic as we're used to seeing, an injured Ronaldo is better than no Ronaldo.
Levante will be disappointed with how they handled the superstar. An early attempt to mark their territory left a bigger impression on the forward's brow than it did the result. Ronaldo was afforded time and space in the box—a suicidal maneuver from any side.
Jose Mourinho's decision to substitute the player was forced. Unfortunately for Real, the entire team looked less penetrative once the golden boy sat out.
Angel Di Maria and Jose Callejon failed to offer any attacking prowess. The La Liga champions played with a predictability for the most part, leaving many supporters wishing Ronaldo was on to secure the points.
Missed Opportunities Could Come Back to Haunt Mourinho's Men
Real Madrid were comfortable against Levante. Far more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
When Raul Albiol failed to clear his own header, it seemed as if the home side were going to punish the visitors' lack of ruthlessness.
Mourinho's side had 19 attempts on goal—just six hit the target. Pepe missed a simple header, and Di Maria fluffed his lines just before Angel provided Levante's equaliser.
Xabi Alonso, who was excellent for the most part, failed to convert a penalty.
Barcelona currently sit eight points ahead of Madrid. Tito Vilanova's men have scored 36 goals so far this season, notching another four against Mallorca in their last outing. Madrid currently have a total of 27 and are three behind their Catalan rivals when considering goal difference.
Madrid must take their chances. If they somehow catch Barcelona's point total, the current champions may falter at the most dramatic hurdle.
We saw Manchester City win the Premier League on goal difference last year. Such a conclusion cannot be overlooked.
Madrid's Key Players Must Step Up
Forget Ronaldo for a minute.
Madrid possess tremendous quality throughout their ranks. Levante will feel they nearly hustled their opposition into submission—the real story is far more simple.
Certain individuals aren't producing their best form for Madrid right now.
Mesut Ozil showed flashes of being back to his best in the Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund. He followed a match-saving performance with a nonexistent display against La Liga's surprise outfit.
The German offered very little throughout the match. He was slow to break forward and couldn't keep up on a horrific pitch. While the ball trickled and bounced about in the rain, all he contributed in a defensive sense was a couple of cynical fouls.
Michael Essien's performance was largely the same. The stocky midfielder at least had the presence to slow Levante's counter-attacks down.
With Ronaldo off the pitch, much of Madrid's wing play came through Angel Di Maria. He was sloppy, indecisive and produced a lack of quality. In fact, the usually meticulous Argentinian completed three dribbles and lost the ball six times. Only so many can be blamed on the pitch.
The aforementioned players should continue to improve as the season goes on. Despite the tremendous quality of Ronaldo, Madrid's success absolutely hinges on other key individuals pulling their weight.
Mourinho Is Willing to Give Youth a Chance
Jose Mourinho's inability to utilise youth players continues to cause debate.
The Special One has opted to push senior members out of position before turning to the club's youngsters. Talents such as Alvaro Morata have shown quality with limited playing time.
Morata entered proceedings with seven minutes to go against Levante. The 20-year-old found space in the opposition's area and coolly headed Xabi Alonso's brilliant free kick into the back of the net.
The Spaniard's reaction said it all. He ran straight towards Mourinho and the Madrid bench, thankful he'd been given the opportunity to win the three points.
Mourinho's decision to call for Morata shouldn't be glossed over.
The starlet came on and snatched a vital win for his team. With Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain sidelined through injury, could Morata significantly aid Madrid's quest for glory?
Awful Weather Conditions Made This a Tighter Match
Rain doesn't compliment Spanish football.
As Levante and Madrid proved, treacherous downpours make things extremely difficult. Although it's surprising the game wasn't abandoned, the horrific conditions certainly hampered any chance of sustained quality.
A few statistics underline how tough this encounter was.
Out of all the players that started, Obafemi Martins produced the best pass completion rate at 88 percent. Final numbers are low across the board—indicating the wet weather had its own role to play.
Real Madrid found the rain more difficult to adjust to.
Xabi Alonso, who played some magnificent balls throughout the match, completed just 52 percent of his passes. Angel Di Maria successfully executed 38 percent of his pass attempts, with Pepe producing an outfield low of 30 percent.
Levante were more than happy to face Madrid in these conditions. The hosts were able to play physically without fear of the ball moving away at pace. With Madrid's usual passing game hindered, the gap between the two teams tightened.
As we saw with Morata's late winner, only a moment of quality won it for the favourites.
Levante Have Their Limitations
Levante will be overjoyed with an excellent start to the season. The loss to Madrid leaves them in sixth, but I feel the squad's limitations are coming to the fore.
Juan Ignacio Martinez set his side up to draw against Sevilla. The manager got his wish, but the lack of attacking threat won't lend itself to success when we reach the season's conclusion. Thirteen goals scored this campaign remains the lowest out of La Liga's top 10 sides.
Aggression was an important factor against Madrid. Reckless tackles through in with alarming consistency and often resulted in dangerous free kicks being conceded. Of course, David Navarro's silly flick of the leg lead to Madrid gaining the penalty.
Seven Levante players finished the match with a booking—one of which wasn't on the pitch. When Pedro Rios received a yellow card on the bench, it summed up a lack of intelligence from the side.
They were here to ruffle Madrid's feathers. This mindset impacted the quality of their football, as basic drills were exchanged for hard-hitting force.
Levante have scored one goal in their last three games. It would be a shame to see the side plummet. If they continue to aim for safe results, they will never land a place in the Champions League.
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All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.
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