The weekend of 19 May saw two important events here in Valencia, my birthday and the final weekend of the La Liga season for our two local sides. Although in different halves of the table, both sides have achieved more than was expected of them, with both clubs and sets of fans very happy with the final positions.
For Levante UD, after a stunning previous season that saw them walk the second division and secure promotion to the top flight, the prime target was stay in the league and not head straight back down. Levante started well with two wins and three draws in their first five matches (including a win against Villareal and draws away to Real Madrid and home to local rivals Valencia). However, things took a very sharp turn for the worse, with only one win from the end of September 2017 until the board sacked manager Muniz on 4 March 2018, the Granotas were in a very different position, precariously placed near the bottom of the table and a very bleak outlook. The board promoted reserve team coach and former Levante player Paco Lopez to take over until the end of the season. Although this temporary appointment didn’t fill Levante supporters with promise, it couldn’t have gone any better, in fact no one could quite believe the transformation. With a title chasing 25 points from an available 33, including a 5-4 home victory against Barcelona in the penultimate game of the season (the champions only defeat of an almost perfect season) Levante UD finished in a very respectable 15th, 17 points off the relegation zone and only 14 points away from a European spot. The club finished on a massive high and we hope they can take this into the new season.
Levante UD beat Barcelona 5-4 to stop their unbeaten season
Valencia CF were consistent from day one. With both Real and Athletico Madrid as opponents in their first 3 matches, drawing against both and winning their opener meant only Barcelona’s perfect start separating what would end up as the final top four teams. Valencia ran through until Xmas on good form with Real Madrid slipping up on several occasions, so by Xmas Eve, Valencia were just 2 points behind Athletico on 36 and 3 ahead of Real on 31. Form and morale was high and with Sevilla in 5th position with a very hit and miss type of season, it was Valencia’s champions league spot to lose.
2018 started well for Los Che, winning their first few matches and pulling away from a rocking Real Madrid side who drew to Celta Vigo and then lost at home to Villareal, before they undone all their hard work with a loss to Las Palmas, who would eventually be relegated. Then two further losses, a heavy 4-1 home defeat to Real followed by another to Athletico away the week after and the tables were finally turning. Would Valencia be able to rally and stay in contention? Yes they could! Back on track with wins against local rivals Levante and then bottom club Malaga saw them pick themselves up and move away from any challengers behind and well in contention for 3rd spot alongside Real Madrid, with Athletico Madrid the only side anywhere near Barcelona. The results kept coming, but with Real also moving at the same rate, Valencia ended up in a very strong 4th position on 73 points, some 12 points ahead of closest rivals Villareal and looking a completely different side to the one who finished 12th the previous year with just 46 points having suffered 18 losses. New manager Marcelino has done a fantastic job following on from ‘Caretaker’ manager Voro after he took the club through to the end of last season following a terrible period under Italian Prandelli.
So Valencia CF move into next season with Champions League football to look forward to and Levante UD looked every bit a decent side by the end of the season, with every chance of kicking on and shedding the yo-yo club moniker it has somewhat obtained from recent years. Moving into the 2018/19 season, there will more incredible matches like the 5-4 Levante win VS Barca, Real’s 4-1 win at the Mestalla, local derby matches, Copa Del Rey and Champions League to look forward to in Valencia. Make sure you take the opportunity to visit this wonderful city and experience the best sport in the world here too!