Real Madrid face tough away test to Levante
Madrid - Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has selection problems of a different kind for his side’s difficult visit to play Levante Sunday night.
If recent matches have seen Mourinho struggle to pick his defence as a result of injuries, his side travel to Valencia with players missing in attack, reports Xinhua.
Karim Benzema, who missed the Champions League draw at home to Borussia Dortmund with a muscle problem, has still not recovered, while Gonzalo Higuain will be out for a month after tearing a muscle in the first half of that game.
Without his two specialized strikers Tuesday, Mourinho adapted his side with Cristiano Ronaldo moving into a central position and Angel de Maria and Jose Callejon providing wide support.
It is probable that Mourinho will look for the same solution again, especially as he has yet to show any confidence in fourth choice striker, Alvaro Morata, who has been included in several squads, but has only played 114 minutes with the first team this season, spending most of his time watching from the stands.
The good news for Mourinho is that the absences in attack have been contrasted by players returning from injury in defence and midfield.
Fabio Coentrao has begun full training after the injury he suffered in October while with Portugal and could play at left back. That would allow Alvaro Arbeloa to return to his favoured position on the right with Sergio Ramos moving back into the centre.
Meanwhile Sami Khedira has almost recovered from his thigh injury and could make the squad for the Levante match, although it looks as if Michael Essien will partner Xabi Alonso in the heart of the Madrid side after a solid 45 minutes in midweek.
Levante will provide a tough challenge to Real Madrid: Juan Ignacio Martinez’s side have proved that last season’s fifth place finish was no fluke and they are again challenging for a place in Europe.
The arrival of Obafemi Martins has given the side more pace in attack, while they remain mean in defence led by veteran stopper Sergio Ballesteros.
The Ciudad de Valencia Stadium was one of the few grounds where Real Madrid were beaten last season, but given Barca’s eight point lead, which could be 11 by the time the sides kick off, anything other than a win this time around will be a failure for Madrid.