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Rival Watch: Levante. And Patrick Ebert's greatest performance. (26th April, 2017)

By the end of next weekend Rayo could still be mathematically in contention for relegation. By the end of next weekend Getafe could solidify their position in the playoff spots. 

But by the end of next weekend, Levante could be promoted to La Liga.

On the last day of the 2015-16 season, Levante were already down to La Segunda, down 2-0 at Vallekas, down partly due to bad luck, mostly due to mediocrity, down with an away record worse than even Sevilla - the only team that managed to do that - and, in the 31st minute, down a man with injury.

Than man, a man who warned he would cry if Levante went down, was 40-year-old captain Juanfran.
As he pulled out with a groin injury, he did cry. His final game in professional football was a game where his most sacred team were going down. Both sets of coaches and fans applauded, for that was the end of an era.

That was the image which Levante took with them. The only one.

That was the image Raimon took with him. The man who proudly assembles the flags that unfurl from the top of the main stand, had to take most of them down.

Rubi had been accused of playing too well, especially for a team that needed to avoid the drop. And Levante paid the price.



Pressing high up the pitch under the attacking philosophy of coach Juan Muñiz, opponents have barely got a whiff of the ball and Levante have been all over them.

Mind you, this is a team that lost their skipper in Juanfran (retired), their best midfielder in Víctor Camarasa, their best striker in Deyverson, their two goalkeepers in Rubén and Diego Mariño, and three other center backs.

Which just goes to show how hard work and a talented manager can do to a team whose fans chant “ugly, poor and bad at football" about their team.

Raimon did have to buy a whole new set of flags - but they’ll be confined to dust by next season.



Juan Muñiz was a former Rayo center-back, playing for the team from 1996-99, and was part of the team that got relegated to the Segunda in 1997 and the team that was promoted back in 1999.

Rayo tried getting him over the summer, but Levante won the race and Rayo moved on to other targets, eventually settling on Sandoval.



12th January, 2013. In the week that Rayo won 2-1 at Bilbao and were three points off a Champion's League spot, Valladolid won 3-1 against Mallorca. It was a routine week - just another win in a La Liga where headlines were filled with Barcelona's exploits.

But it was Patrick Ebert's performance in that game that struck me. Every play went through him - and it was not surprising that he scored twice and assisted the other. The quality of those goals was spectacular too - a long range shot that was as ridiculous as it was brilliant, and another that was remarkably similar to the famous one Zlatan scored for Ajax. The assist wasn't too bad either - a stunning cross that was perfectly placed for Óscar who needed just a touch from an outstretched leg to score.

And yet the goals only validate a performance that consisted of intricate passes, stunning dribbles, dangerous free kicks, and  audacious attempts at goal - including trying to chip the goalkeeper from near the goal line and hitting the post.

Watch it here:


Also, the list of top scorers for Valladolid that season reads - Óscar González (12), Manucho (8), Guerra (8), Ebert (6), Alberto Bueno (5). Any familiar names? :D

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