Promotion play-offs final second leg: Levante UD vs Deportivo Alavés go head-to-head for the final spot in LaLiga Santander

One of Levante UD or Deportivo Alavés will be playing in the top division of Spanish football in 2023/24. The clubs from the Valencian Community and the Basque Country are meeting over a two-legged playoff to determine who’ll join Granada CF and UD Las Palmas in securing promotion, after Levante UD defeated Albacete Balompié 6-1 on aggregate and after Deportivo Alavés won a derby against SD Eibar 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals.

The first leg has already taken place at Mendizorroza and it finished without either side managing to score. Therefore, the scoreboard is still locked at 0-0 ahead of the second leg, which will take place at the Estadi Ciutat de València on Saturday, June 17th.  

If at the end of the second leg the tie is tied, extra time will be played. And, if at the end of the extra time there is still a draw, the team with the better position in the league standings, which is Levante UD, will win the tie, as there are no penalty shootouts.

Levante UD triumphed in each of the meetings between these teams in the regular season, on both occasions by a scoreline of 2-0, so they’ll hope to achieve similar success against the Basque side in the final. Making this contest especially interesting is the fact that Javier Calleja, the current Levante UD coach, used to manage Deportivo Alavés, while Luis García Plaza, the current boss of Los Blanquiazules, used to be in charge of Los Granotes.

These are two clubs that have been near the top throughout the season, even occupying automatic promotion spots at some point. These are two clubs that know what it’s like to play in LaLiga Santander, given that they only suffered relegation 12 months ago. These are two clubs that will give their all to fulfil their dream of returning to the top flight of Spanish football.

Levante UD: Up against the curse of the third-placed team

After Levante UD were relegated last season, they’ve come within touching distance of the automatic promotion spots and a bounce back promotion, like what Granada CF achieved. With home advantage and the tie-breaker rule in their hands, the Valencian side are confident. But, they are battling a curse of sorts that has afflicted almost all third-placed teams since the promotion playoffs were introduced in 2010/11. Only three teams have ever been promoted after finishing third in the standings: Real Valladolid in 2011/12, UD Almería in 2012/13 and Getafe CF in 2016/17.

This team has had three coaches during this term. Mehdi Nafti started the season and led Levante UD in the first nine matchdays, before Felipe Miñambres took over the bench in the following two rounds and, finally, Javier Calleja was in charge for the rest of the way, even reaching second place in the table at one point.

Their success has been based on defensive solidity, with goalkeeper Dani Cárdenas as the outstanding player. With only 30 goals conceded in 42 games, only UD Las Palmas finished the regular season with fewer goals conceded, with 29. Together with the Canary Islanders, they are the team to have lost the fewest number of times, with just six. In terms of goals, Mohamed Bouldini, with eight, and Joni Montiel, with seven, have stood out.

Deportivo Alavés: Another club aiming to return after just one year

Just like Levante UD, Deportivo Alavés’ aim is also to spend just one year in LaLiga SmartBank, as they were relegated last season and now have the chance to return to the top tier through these playoffs. With Luis García Plaza at the helm in Vitoria all season long, they have also kept the core of the previous season’s LaLiga Santander squad, while they’ve reinforced by making some signings who have helped get the fans at Mendizorroza dreaming of promotion. The significant departures of Fernando Pacheco and Joselu have given way to the leadership of Antonio Sivera in goal and Luis Rioja further up the pitch, while the arrivals of Aleksandar Sedlar, Salva Sevilla, Jon Guridi and Asier Villalibre also boosted their chances.

Deportivo Alavés have spent all season in either the automatic promotion or playoff positions, never dropping below fifth place in a demonstration of the team’s desire for promotion. The 10 goals of Luis Rioja, one of the most outstanding players in the entire competition, were key in keeping the Basque side’s promotion hopes alive until the final matchday. After six consecutive seasons in LaLiga Santander before dropping down to LaLiga SmartBank, the results of this season have made it clear that Deportivo Alavés’ sporting project is solid and that they do have what it takes for promotion.

MG Team

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