Afternoon all! Sports Mole
's La Liga coverage resumes this afternoon as Levante
welcome Atletico Madrid
to Valencia. The home side have had a solid campaign, with 42 points from their 35 games leaving them in 11th position. Atletico, meanwhile, are just two wins away from securing the title this season. As it stands, Diego Simeone's side are three points ahead of Barcelona, who have played a game more, and six ahead of Real Madrid, who have played a game less. Right, let me bring you the team news...
LEVANTE: Navas; Juanfran, Vyntra, Lopez, Navarro; Diop, Simao, Sissoko; Garcia, Victor, Barral
ATLETICO: Courtois; Alderweireld, Godin, Miranda, Luis; Tiago, Gabi, Koke; Garcia, Costa, Villa
So there we have it. No real surprises in the Levante XI this afternoon, with David Barral
once more joined in attack by Ruben Garcia. There is also a start in central midfield for Simao Junior. Atletico, meanwhile, are without their suspended right-back Juanfran. As a result, Toby Alderweireld comes into the side, while there are also starts for Raul Garcia and David Villa. Arda Turan, meanwhile, drops to the bench.
In terms of the recent meetings between the two sides, Atletico have won three of the last five matches, with Levante also winning once and the further clash ending in a draw. As mentioned, the corresponding match last season ended in a 1-1 draw, but Atletico were 3-2 winners at the Calderon earlier this season. That said, Simeone's side have not won on their last two visits to this particular stadium.
Levante have won just one of their last five in the league, with back-to-back defeats against Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal at the start of last month followed by back-to-back draws against Getafe and Elche. They are not mathematically safe from the drop, but it would take an incredible collapse and freak run of results for them to drop into trouble. It will almost certainly be another season of La Liga football for Levante.
Their home form this season has been fairly patchy, however, with just five wins from 17 matches, losing six times in the process. Only Real Betis, who have already been relegated, have won fewer games on their own patch this season than Levante. Goals have also been a problem at home for Levante, with just 15 in their 17 games. That said, they have conceded just 16 times during that run.
In truth, goals in general have been a problem for Levante this season. They have managed just 31 in their 35 games, which is just two more than lowest scorers Elche. Atletico, meanwhile, have netted 75 times. Down the other end, Atletico have the best defensive record in the league with just 22 conceded – keeping 20 clean sheets in the process. That said, Levante's defensive record is also strong with just 42 conceded.
As mentioned, victory for Atletico this afternoon would leave them just one win away from securing the title this season. Next week they are at home to Malaga and in truth, it is difficult to see them dropping points in that match. The title could already be won before they travel to Barcelona, who drew 2-2 with Getafe yesterday, on the final weekend of the season. Atletico's La Liga record this season is played 35, won 28, drawn four and lost just three – all of which have been on the road.
Simeone's side also booked their spot in the final of the Champions League last week after winning 3-1 against Chelsea in London. Fernando Torres gave the home side the lead against his former club in the semi-final second leg, but strikes from Adrian Lopez, Diego Costa and Arda Turan set up an all-Madrid final with Real Madrid in Lisbon. It is difficult to put into words the season that Atletico are having.
PREDICTION: Atletico have not particularly enjoyed their trips to Levante in recent seasons, but this is a different Atletico. A more complete team and one that is on the cusp of the title. Levante struggle to score goals but do not concede many either, which points to a close match. Atletico have picked up a number of 1-0 wins in the league this season, however, and I am predicting that to be the case once more.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the first period. The pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - could be vital this afternoon. Right, the home side get the action underway.
It must be said that it is a beautiful afternoon in Valencia. The stadium is far from full, but there is a strong atmosphere. As expected, Atletico have taken control of the ball in the early exchanges. A half-chance arrives when Tiago meets a loose ball inside the Levante box, but his effort trickles wide of the post.
Atletico have already started to look long towards Costa, with the powerful striker twice collecting through balls from Gabi and Miranda, but Levante have remained tight in defensive areas. The home side attempt to force the issue with a long pass towards Barral, but the Spaniard's pass towards Juanfran is loose.
Half-chance for Costa this time as the Atletico forward drives into the Levante box before attempting to evade Navas, but the Levante goalkeeper is out to claim at the vital moment. Plenty happening at both ends in the opening six minutes as Barral crosses towards Victor in the Atletico box, but Courtois is out to claim.
GOAL! Levante 1-0 Atletico (Luis OG)
Levante take the lead with seven minutes on the clock as Luis turns into his own net after Sissoko had met a corner from Diop. Well then, this was not in the script. Atletico will have to come from behind here.
Levante are getting a lot of joy in the middle of the park at the moment with Sissoko, Diop and Simao all involved in the Atletico half. The visitors have not really been allowed to start in the opening 10 minutes as the pressure continues. Real Madrid and Barcelona supporters will be hoping that this continues.
Atletico have just started to see more of the ball in the last couple of moments, but Levante continue to shut the door outside their own box. The visitors force a free kick when Diop fells Koke, but the resulting set piece from Gabi is cleared. Still plenty of time for Diego Simeone's side to turn this match around.
CHANCES! Two incredible chances in quick succession for Atletico. First Levante goalkeeper Navas denies Garcia from point-blank range, before Villa fires the rebound high and wide of the crossbar.
Plenty of Atletico supporters have made the trip to Valencia this afternoon and they are making their voices heard in the early exchanges. The away side are just starting to turn the screw in the final third, but Costa needs to be careful following an altercation with the referee. Still 1-0 Levante after 16 minutes of football.
Slightly untidy period of the match in terms of challenges in the last couple of moments as Diop dives into another late one with Luis. The resulting free kick is delivered by Gabi, but Navas is out to collect once more. Navarro looks for the through pass towards Barral, but Tiago steps across to clear inside his box.
The pitch was not watered before the match and it is extremely lively at the moment as the ball continues to bounce on the surface. Costa embarks on a one-on-one situation with Navas moments later, but the linesman raises his flag. It was extremely close. Levante are down the other end with Simao in the next attack, but Luis is on hand to clear the danger. Little under 25 minutes still to play in the first period here.
Nervy moment inside the Levante box as Gabi's delivery causes Navas all sorts of problems, but the goalkeeper does manage to clear. Villa meets a loose ball on the edge of the area from the next corner, but his effort is wide of the post. Atletico are turning the screw, but they cannot find a way through at the moment.
Levante just cannot get out of their own half at the moment as Atletico continue to flood the midfield, but the referee has taken exception to a number of challenges. That said, the official has not produced a card thus far. Not too much from the home side in terms of an attacking threat with 25 minutes on the clock.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last minute or two, with Levante starting to enjoy more of the ball in the Atletico half. You just get the feeling that Atletico need to score the next goal. Levante do not concede many on their own patch. More frustration for Costa down the other end moments later as the Spaniard is crowded out by Navarro. Still the home side lead from that early Luis own goal.
Atletico attempt to quicken the pace as Villa plays a through pass towards Costa from a free kick, but Juanfran is across to clear the danger. The away side break down the right in their next attack, but once more the pass towards Costa leaves the striker with too much to do. Frustrating spell for Atletico.
Opportunity for Levante to threaten from a free kick as Ruben Garcia is felled by Miranda just outside the Atletico box. The resulting set piece is taken by Sissoko, but his effort is straight into the arms of Courtois, who has been relatively untroubled aside from the goal. Down the other end, Costa fells Juanfran.
Costa just needs to settle as the Atletico forward has another exchange with the referee following a late challenge from Ruben Garcia. The resulting free kick is taken by Gabi, but Garcia's header is blocked by Navarro. Moments later, Tiago crosses into the Levante box, but Navas is on hand to claim.
Costa and Sissoko are both lucky to remain on the field. The Atletico forward throws his head into Sissoko, before the Levante midfielder palms the face of the Spaniard. The referee did not see the altercation, which is lucky for both players. This game is on the verge of boiling over. The official needs to take control.
SAVE! Alderweireld attempts to force the issue for Atletico after meeting a loose ball just outside the box, but Navas is down to make a really smart save. Suddenly the temperature has risen.
Atletico continue to force the issue as they gain two corners in quick succession, but Navarro and Navas take it in turns to clear the danger. On the touchline, Simeone is having serious words with Turan, which means that the Turkish international would be imminent. Little under five minutes of the first period remaining.
More frustration for Atletico as another move breaks down in the final third. Levante are not too interested in attacking at the moment as they attempt to take a 1-0 lead into the interval. Another free kick arrives on the left for Atletico, but Sissoko is on hand to clear ahead of Garcia. This is a serious test for Atletico.
Simeone might have a decision to make regarding Costa is the striker picks up a yellow card in the final minutes of the first period. You can just sense the Spaniard is close to boiling point following another clash with Navas. Possession football for the home side with 45 minutes on the clock in Valencia.
HALF-TIME: Levante 1-0 Atletico
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to an end with Levante leading courtesy of an own goal from Luis after seven minutes. This was not in the script for Atletico. As it stands, Barcelona and Real Madrid's title hopes are being boosted. Can the leaders respond in the second 45 minutes in Valencia?
STATISTICS: Atletico have just about shaded the possession this afternoon with 54%, while they have had six attempts - three of which have been on target. Levante, meanwhile, have had just two attempts thus far. Surprisingly there has not been a single yellow card despite the feisty nature of the contest. Atletico forward Costa in particular is lucky to have escaped entering the referee's book.
BENCH WATCH: Levante have a number of attacking options on their bench this afternoon in the shape of Angel, Ivanschitz and Pinto. Meanwhile, Atletico have the likes of Adrian, Diego and Turan in reserve. It appears that the latter will enter at the interval as he is currently undergoing a warm-up.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second 45 minutes. Can Atletico respond? Or are their title hopes going to take a hit here? You just get the feeling that they need to find the next goal in this close match. Right, the visitors get the second period underway in Valencia.
SUBS! Two changes for Atletico at the interval with Adrian and Turan entering the field in place of Villa and Garcia. Levante, however, go with the same XI from the first period, which is unsurprising.
Half-chance for Godin in the early stages of the half as the Atletico centre-back meets a loose ball outside the Levante box, but his effort is high and wide of the crossbar. Levante enjoy a period of possession in the middle of the park moments later, but the pressing is a lot higher from Atletico in this half.
Levante just cannot get out of their own half at the moment as Turan swings another cross into the area, but Navas is out to claim at the vital moment. Still plenty of time for Atletico to turn this match around, but Barcelona and Real Madrid supporters will be hoping that the home side can add a vital second.
More frustration for Atletico as Costa dives into the back of Barral, but still the referee does not produce a card. Just a reminder that Simeone made two changes at the break, while Levante are yet to look to their bench. A half-chance arrives for Levante as Diop meets a free kick from Barral, but Courtois collects.
Another half-chance for Atletico as Costa drives into the Levante box before finding Adrian, but Navarro is across to make a fine block at the vital moment. The resulting corner is delivered towards Godin, but Sissoko drives out of defence for the home side. Still 1-0 Levante with 54 minutes on the clock in Valencia.
CHANCE! Brilliant chance for the away side as Costa finds some space inside the Levante box before rolling it towards Gabi, who sets up Turan, but Juanfran is across to make a wonderful block.
BOOKING! Tiago has his name taken for Atletico following a late challenge on Diop.
Another half-chance for the away side as Costa finds Turan inside the Levante box, but this time Navarro is across to make the block. Atletico are really turning the screw as Turan heads over the crossbar.
SUB! Levante make their first change of the match as Sissoko is replaced by Ivanschitz.
Atletico continue to force the issue as Koke delivers a long pass onto the head of Costa, but Juanfran is once more across to clear the danger. The home side's defence are not giving anything away at the moment. Still around 30 minutes of normal time to play in Valencia. It is a serious test of Atletico's credentials.
BOOKING! Barral is booked for Levante following a late challenge on Godin.
SUB! Atletico make their third and final change as Diego replaces Koke in midfield.
So there we have it. Simeone has made all three changes this afternoon. Still no sign of the goal, however, as Levante continue to defend the edge of their own box. The home side have a half-chance down the other end when Juanfran delivers towards Barral, but Courtois is on hand to claim at the vital moment.
OFF THE LINE! Luis strikes one towards the bottom corner for Atletico, but Vyntra is on hand to clear off the line. Atletico are getting closer, but there is still no way through this defence.
CHANCE! Incredible chance for Costa as the Atletico striker meets a free kick from Gabi, but somehow his effort moves wide of the post. How on earth are the leaders not level here?! Small margins.
SAVE! Wonderful save from Navas as the Levante stopper dives to his right to deny Alderweireld, whose effort had taken a big deflection on the edge of the box. Levante just cannot get out of their own half at the moment as the pressure continues, but still no goal for Atletico. Just incredible.
GOAL! Levante 2-0 Atletico (Barral)
Oh my word Levante have blown this league wide open. The home side score their second of the match 20 minutes from time as Barral collects a cross from Victor before finishing into the bottom corner. Wow.
Simeone cannot believe it as he stands on the touchline. Atletico are in serious trouble in Valencia with little under 20 minutes of football to play. Barcelona and Real Madrid supporters will be enjoying this. Turan attempts to respond for Atletico, but his effort is straight into the arms of Navas.
SUB! Levante make their second change as Ruben Garcia is replaced by Pinto.
BOOKING! Simao has his name taken for Levante following a late challenge on Gabi.
Atletico continue to force the issue in wide areas with Luis, but the left-back loses control before bringing Pinto to the ground. More frustration for the league leaders, who will allow Barcelona and Real Madrid back into the race if they drop points in this match. They have little over 15 minutes to change things.
BOOKING! Godin is booked for Atletico following a high challenge on Barral.
POST! Wonderful chance for Atletico to open their tally as Adrian collects a pass from Diego before curling one towards the bottom corner, but his effort hits the post. It just will not go in.
BOOKING! Turan enters the book for Atletico following a pull on Pinto.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments as the referee continues to become involved to deal with a number of late challenges. If Atletico can score in the next minute or two, it would set up a brilliant finish. What have they got left after their Champions League exploits last week?
SUB! Levante make their third and final change as Barral is replaced by Angel.
Anywhere will do for Levante at the moment as Atletico continue to force the ball into the home side's box. Simeone can only watch on the sidelines as time continues to tick away. Atletico can still win the title with two wins, but they travel to Barcelona on the final weekend of the season. What a blow this would be.
Half-chance for Adrian from a Diego corner, but his header is high and wide of the crossbar. It just will not happen for the leaders. Just a reminder that later this evening Real Madrid host Valencia in La Liga.
Another half-chance for Atletico as Tiago strikes one from just outside the box, but once more it moves wide of the post. The leaders have had chances, but it just has not happened. Levante are close to turning this La Liga title race upside down. Who knew? Can Atletico respond to this blow in the final two games?
Miranda is playing as a striker for Atletico at the moment and has a half-chance after meeting a cross from Diego, but his header is high of the crossbar. The home supporters are in wonderful voice, but the Atletico fans can hardly watch. Little over one minute of normal time remaining. Is there to be late drama here?
The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional three minutes and we are indeed into the first of those. Navas is twice called into action by Turan and Adrian, but again makes two vital saves.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for Pinto to score Levante's third as he bursts into the Atletico box, but the midfielder can only roll his effort wide of the post.
FULL-TIME: Levante 2-0 Atletico
So there we have it. Atletico's title challenge takes a hit as Levante win 2-0 in Valencia. Just a reminder that Real Madrid host Valencia later this evening. Our coverage of that begins at 7.30pm - be sure to join us again. There should be a wonderful atmosphere around the stadium following this result. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action. Good evening!