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Casual fans may not be aware of this but the oldest team in Valencia is actually not Valencia CF but Levante UD. However the accomplishments and profile of the younger brother has far overshadowed that of the older brother and their priorities are vastly different. For Valencia CF, Champions League competition and league title challenges are the norm; for Levante survival in the Primera Liga is and remains their only goal leading into the new season.

In fact, at one point in time last year, it looked like even achieving that aim would be a miracle. A rag-tag bunch made up of unknown locals and semi-famous Europeans struggled to get to grips with the pace and standard of the competition and by the end of 2006, Levante were relegation certainties.

Then things took a total turnaround; the arrival of veteran goalkeeper Jose Molina and defender Serrano tightened the defence and a run of 7 wins and 6 draws in 2007 saw them climb up the table to respectability. The recovery was also credited as the work of new coach Abel Resino who breathed new life into the squad.

Going into the new season, there certainly is an air of optimism that the battle against relegation would be easier this time round. Levante is a better side then most people give credit for; a 4-2 win over local rivals Valencia, a 1-0 win over Real Madrid and a 1-1 draw with Barcelona are testimony to their ability. It just so happens that their offensive style of play is less effective when facing side that packs their defence and hits on the break.

Still do not expect things to change. Coach Abel is regarded as an offensive manager, playing with the defensive line high up the field and he will continue to do so. This is sometimes seen as a risky stile of playing which is why the defensive reinforcements is so crucial. The addition of Italian veteran Bruno Cirillo can only help the likes of mainstay Alvaro and fullbacks Monolo and Rubiales. Molina has since retired, leaving the way open for Argentine Pablo Cavallero.

Levante were fortunate that they managed to hang on to Italian midfielder Damiano Tommasi. His leadership and distribution in the middle of the park was one of the team’s biggest strength and he looks set to continue his partnership with Diego Camacho.

The key to Levante’s attacking play is the utilisation of wingers on both flanks. Not many clubs in Europe do so now but Felix Ettien is a  a strapping muscular presence on the right and with an abundance of skill and with his direct style, he is a handful for any defence.

On the left, Resino has swapped the inconsistency of the mecurial Laurent Robert for the dependability of Brazilian Savio. The 33 year-old performed admirably but could not prevent Real Sociedad from relegation and he will be hoping for better luck with Levante.

Rounding out the attack are the odd pairing of Dutchman Riga Mustapha and Georgian international Shota Arveladze. Both are comfortable on the ball and show a keen eye for goal but only Riga made good on his promise last year with 9 goals. Cosidering that he is technically a right winger, his return is outstanding.

Arveladze may be 34 but he is a proven goalscorer and has shown consistency no matter where he has played so his addition is a bonus for Levante considering that the rest of the strikers like Nino, Cameroonian Albert Meyong Ze and even new arrival Geijo are more like squad players. Nino was one of the second division’s most highly rated striker but he struggled at the highest stage.

Levante Possible First XI:
Cavallero; Manolo, Serrano, Alvaro, Rubiales; Ettien, Tommasi, Camacho, Savio; Arveladze, Riga

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