The summer of 2010 was my first as a Levante fan. After discovering my grandfather´s old neighborhood, a neighborhood notorious for its connections to Levante, and seeing the team move up to first division, I could not help but get excited for the next season in Primera. After finishing my studies at a university in Spain, I took advantage of some vacation time and the fact that I was already in Europe to visit an old friend, my high school roommate in Hannover. He was a lifelong Hannover 96 supporter. I can remember back when I still had not caught the football bug and I would see him with his Hannover scarf and wonder “what the heck was his problem?” Now, we are both going to be watching intently as our two clubs take each other on for the first time in their histories. Who will walk away with bragging rights (at least until the teams meet again in November)?
Hannover seems to be in the best position to defend their home turf. They have a very stellar home record in Europe and will be looking to exploit Levante´s recent slide in form. Some say it is the players being too tired with an extra load of European matches on an already demanding Liga schedule. This comes back to JIM typically not making too many adjustments to his lineup. Today, will be a huge exception as JIM is expected to really follow through and give some unused players valuable minutes in Germany.
JIM is notorious for always playing the same people, but after a 4-0 loss to previously bottom of the table Osasuna and with the buildup of tired legs, JIM has been left with no other choice. David Navarro, Barkero, Diop and Martins have not been included in the list of travelers to Hannover. Martins is unable to participate due to his late arrival. Levante will have to wait till the January window to write him in the competition.
Projected Starting 11
Christian Lell – Hector Rodas – Sergio Ballesteros – Nikos Karabelas
Iborra - Pallardó
El Zhar - Rubén - Pedro Ríos
Cherundolo – Haggui -Eggimann -Rausch
Stindl – Pinto – Huszti – Schlaudraff
Ya Konan – Sobiech
This is a radically different starting lineup compared to the one JIM has been using lately. Ángel, Oscar Serrano, Dudka and Massimo Volta could also enter the starting lineup or at least get a decent amount of playing time. JIM has maintained that Levante want to be competitive and “enjoy” the experience of playing in the Europa League. Depending on how prepared and confident some of the reserves are at this point in the season, after all many have not even officially debuted (Volta, Serrano, Dudka, etc.) yet this season, will determine whether Levante can pull of a surprise or at least a positive result. Hannover obviously have more pedigree in European competition, but Levante as previously stated are an unknown entity. This is probably the toughest game in the group.
Levante have a way of rising from the dead after a particularly bad loss. I predict today to (hopefully) be another case of this: 0-1 Levante (Iborra).