La Liga Struggler Levante Enters 2022 As The Only Winless Club In Europe’s Strongest Divisions

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With a modern stadium and some bright players, Levante had good reason to approach this La Liga challenge with ambition. Given the steady progress made to reach this point — four consecutive years at the top table in Spain — it would have expected to look over its shoulder to see other teams trailing behind by the time 2021 closed.

Instead, Levante cannot see a thing when it looks over its shoulder, apart from one giant shadow. There is still half the competition to play, but its failure to claim a league win since it began means relegation beckons.

The team has eight points. That is six fewer than Cádiz in the penultimate league position. Las Granotas must increase its tally when facing a solid yet vulnerable Villarreal in the new year, or any hope will quickly dissipate.

Compared to other names around the continent, no other major-division team has failed to register a league win this term. Germany has the worst performer in laboring Greuther Fürth, whose one victory and downpour of defeats leaves it stuck on five points. Dutch side PEC Zwolle is not much better, with only six. Regardless, Levante’s eight is still a desperate number, despite not reflecting the entire reality.

Levante can score goals and has notched seven more than Getafe, despite being four places inferior in the table. It even has more than the five strugglers directly above it and more than Athletic Club in tenth. For all the issues, it has contributed to some spectacular games. Those include three-goal hauls against Real Madrid, Sevilla, Espanyol and rival Valencia. Had the players conceded fewer goals in those matches, which it has managed in other contests, it would have more points on the board.

The overall direction has taken an unwanted swerve. Pumping money into the stadium — with the revenue possibilities brought about by sponsors and optimistic supporters — symbolized prosperity and the sense Levante was confident of success and profitability. That is now at risk, and a return to the second division would knock a club seemingly established in the top 15 in Spain.

Levante is not blind to relegation. At least, that was the impression from talking to financial director Ignacio García before this season. There was a sense that, while infrastructural spending makes sense alongside top-flight soccer, Levante could slip up. The key was to have a competitive, settled squad that could bounce back.

Unfortunately, that looks a little lost too. Offensively, Levante can trouble the opposition, but the defense is leaky under manager Alessio Lisci. He needs to solve that problem soon. Finding another boss is hardly an option when you have already sacked two since the first game. And there is the next unwanted record. Levante is the only elite European participant to change hands twice so far.

The fall started when the board dismissed Paco López, the first to go. López’s squad was underperforming, but the passionate Spaniard was responsible for the club’s feel-good factor for so long. His successor Javier Pereira is waiting for his next gig after just seven La Liga games in charge.

There is still time, but Lisci and Levante must avoid a trap. Levante is entertaining and easy on the eye, but so was Huesca before it sank to the Segunda, where it has since drifted into obscurity. Conversely, Cádiz exemplifies playing to your strengths with limited resources available.

For confidence, if nothing else, Levante needs a victory, and soon.

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