16 October 2014 16:31
Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid are out to maintain their exhilarating form at Levante ahead of big clashes with Liverpool and Barcelona.
Real have won four successive league matches – scoring a staggering 20 goals in the process – to climb fourth, four points behind leaders Barcelona.
Eleven of those have come from Ronaldo, who has more milestones in sight on Saturday against a team has scored against 10 times in nine contests.
The 29-year-old Portuguese requires one goal to become the third player – and first since 1948 – to score 14 times in the opening eight rounds of a Spanish top-flight campaign, while three goals in Valencia would see him eclipse Alfredo Di Stefano and Telmo Zarra and become the competition’s outright record scorer of hat-tricks.
Real have won their last five games against Levante, with Ronaldo on target every time.
Levante have beaten Real at home only once in nine La Liga attempts. Sami Khedira was sent off in that 1-0 defeat in 2011, and the Germany midfielder’s return to training following injury on Wednesday means Sergio Ramos and Jese Rodriguez are the only players not at Carlo Ancelotti’s disposal.
Keylor Navas appears unlikely to feature against the side he left in the summer after Ancelotti again backed Iker Casillas, who has come under increasing criticism following some poor performances for Real and Spain of late.
“He’s part of the history of this club and he’s still a top goalkeeper,” insisted the Italian, who also dismissed the possibility of president Florentino Perez interfering with his team selections.
“I’ve worked with presidents who are intelligent enough not to ask a coach to pick one player or another,” Ancelotti told Radio Cope. “If he ever asked me to, I would consider leaving.”
Michel Salgado this week criticised his former club’s decision to sell Xabi Alonso and replace him with Toni Kroos in the engine room, opining that the German’s more adventurous style has weakened Real defensively.
Ancelotti, however, believes the 10-time European champions’ attacking players are combating that hurdle.
“There are some very important players in the team that are getting used to defending better,” he said. “It was something that was unusual for James [Rodriguez] when he first arrived, but he’s doing very well now.”
Levante have lost all three of their home matches this term, failing to score and conceding nine goals in the process.
Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side are just one point above the relegation zone, but a fresh from an encouraging 3-3 draw at Eibar in which 20-year-old midfielder Victor Camarasa impressed.