La Liga Betting: Real to sneak past Levante



A goalkeeper storm is brewing in Madrid. Iker Casillas has been included in the Real squad for the first time since recovering from injury, but manager José Mourinho apparently failed to enquire into his recovery during his two months out. A radio journalist pointed out to the coach that Madrid have kept only one clean sheet in the 12 games without the captain. Producing a piece paper containing words the reporter had written from a previous era at Madrid, Mourinho then reiterated how medals, status and name shouldn't be an issue when selecting a team, before finishing by folding up the paper, looking at the journalist and concluding: "We all know that you are not impartial in your analysis." Mourinho found an ally in another legendary coach, Arrigo Sacchi. "Iker Casillas has always trained poorly, Mourinho is right to leave him out," said the former Madrid director of football. Mou also hinted that he will find it hard to drop in-form Diego López.

Juan Ignacio Martínez's Levante side sits six points from another shot at the Europa League. They progressed to the last 16 this season - the furthest of Spain's participants. Like many teams they struggled to balance the competition with domestic duties; last weekend's victory ended a seven-game run without a win.

Team news

Real should indulge in a bit of rotation. Kaká, Marcelo and Luka Modrić should all be given the opportunity to impress once again, while Pepe and Álvaro Arbeloa will be hoping to prove they should be first-choice selections.

Suspension rules out David Navarro for the visitors, but club captain Sergio Ballesteros is available to fill the gap in defence. Pedro López, Nabil El Zhar and Valdo are all in contention, though will probably have to make do with starting from the bench.

Form

The surprising draw with Real Zaragoza broke a run of seven straight wins - Los Blancos' most successful period of the season. The emphatic 3-0 win over Galatasary showed the capability of Real's attacking players.

Victory over Sevilla was Levante's first win for two months, and they have not won away from home since the 16th of December.

Recent head-to-head

The last time Levante visited the Bernabeu they lost 4-2, with Cristiano Ronaldo hitting a hat-trick. The Portuguese forward is 6.50 to pull off the treble once more. The two clubs' most recent encounter involved stitches to Ronaldo's eye, a waterlogged pitch, fighting in the dressing room and police being called to the Ciutat de Valencia stadium.

Goalscorer betting

Gonzalo Higuaín effectively killed the European tie with the Turkish champions, eight minutes after coming on. The Argentine forward is expected to feature from the start here and is 4.30 to score first.

Verdict

Although 'The Special One' reaffirmed the club's priorities this campaign, the lead against Galatasaray and the bad tempered affair last time means this match should be spicy. A Madrid victory is at 1.14.

Bonus bet

Pepe and Ballesteros are 3.60 and 2.30 respectively to pick up a booking, while you can bet on there being a red card at 2.75.

Score prediction: Real Madrid 2-1 Levante