Real Madrid: How Will They Line Up vs. Levante in La Liga?

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2014

Real's Raphael Varane in action with Atletico's Cristian Rodriguez during a semi final, 2nd leg, Copa del Rey soccer derby match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid, Tuesday Feb. 11 , 2014.  (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)
Gabriel Pecot/Associated Press

Real Madrid’s lead at the top of La Liga shrunk from three points to one last weekend after their 2-2 draw with local rivals Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon.

This meant that Barcelona, who beat Almeria, moved closer to the top.

Los Blancos won't be too disheartened, thoughthey were five points behind both Atletico and Barca heading into January.

This weekend, following a week littered with internationals, they will look to keep their lead at the summit when they welcome Levante to the Bernabeu on Sunday evening.

After a tough derby, followed by the majority of the squad taking part in friendlies for their countries, Football Espana suggests that Carlo Ancelotti is going to take the opportunity to rotate his line-up.

It could mean as many as four changes from the side which drew last time out.

Raphael Varane is one of the players expected to come into the side. Pepe, who has been the normal starter alongside Sergio Ramos this season, missed Portugal’s friendly with an illness and is expected to be given a bit more time to recover.

There could also be two changes on either side of the back four. Dani Carvajal and Marcelo have been tipped to line up as the full-backs, with Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao dropping out.

In goal, Diego Lopez received some criticism for not saving Gabi’s long-range effort last weekend, but Iker Casillas leapt to his defence when speaking the club's official website.

"Up until now the gaffer has gone with Diego in the league and he is playing very well. We are leaders on our own merit and a lot of that is down to Diego,” he said.

Paul White/Associated Press

Lopez will be between the sticks against Levante.

Midfield is where Ancelotti is expected to make his final change. Angel di Maria, who has been phenomenal in a central position recently, could make way for Isco to be handed a start.

Elsewhere, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso should be the men to play alongside the former Malaga man, but in the name of rotation, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if Asier Illarramendi was to be handed a game.

Sami Khedira, as ever, remains in Germany recovering from the injury he sustained earlier in the season.

Changes are not expected across the front three.

Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema all scored on international duty in midweek and the three of them, now more affectionately known at the “BBC,” will all be looking to add to their goal tallies.

Ronaldo has already scored over 30 goals this season, while Benzema and Bale are both closing in on 20.

Madrid will hope for a more comfortable evening than when the two sides met in Valencia in October. On that occasion, it took two stoppage-time goals to ensure the three points returned to the Spanish capital.

Predicted Real Madrid XI: Diego Lopez; Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso, Isco; Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo