x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Spanish minnows swimming with the big fish

The Primera Liga resumes after a two-week international break this weekend. That Barcelona and Real Madrid occupy two of the Champions League spots alongside big spending Malaga is no surprise, that Levante do, is.

The Primera Liga resumes after a two-week international break this weekend. That Barcelona and Real Madrid occupy two of the Champions League spots alongside big spending Malaga is no surprise, that Levante do, is.

Valencia's second biggest club are in third, sandwiched between Barca and Madrid, having won four and drawn two of their six games so far. Last time out, they went to early leaders Real Betis and came away with three points and another clean sheet.

That is par for the course as Levante have conceded just three goals all season and no team in Spain has a better defensive record.

It is astonishing: Levante have the smallest budget in the league of just €21 million (Dh102.9m) to Real and Barca's €500m - that's a Real side they have already beaten.

Eight of the Levante players in their last game were over 30, not one of them cost a euro and several were cast-offs from teams Levante have beaten. Levante's entire wage bill would not pay the salary or Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

Sergio Ballesteros, their captain, is a veteran defender who is just shy of his 37th year, and is known as "Papa" to his teammates.

It is still early in the season and nobody expects Levante to finish in the top six, let alone top four, but they possess an outstanding team spirit and their players are proving doubters wrong.

Let's hope they don't wither under the current scrutiny and limelight.