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Los Granotes enjoy the moment as they break free of their local rivals’ shadow

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By Andrew Harding

Friday 30 September 2011

If you asked any keen observer of La Primera which teams would be unbeaten come the sixth round of fixtures, you would have heard the obvious names of Barcelona and Real Madrid, and perhaps Villarreal or a Sevilla. You would have been hard-pressed to find someone telling you that Levante would be in such a position, yet heading into their away game in Seville against another surprise package in current La Liga leaders Betis, Los Granotes sit in third place above the likes of Los Blancos and their more established communal rivals Valencia.

Before the season began, all but the most optimistic of Levante supporters would say that this season would be one of struggle for the Valencian club. With many key players departing over the summer, the loss of the entrenador who masterminded last season’s unlikely survival and the club’s perilous financial position, signs were pointing to them being relegation fodder.

Their conditions continue to dampen expectations but Levante are picking up points a lot earlier than last season. This time last year, Los Granotes had amassed a solitary point, that being at home to Real Madrid in the fifth game of the campaign.

This season, second-season syndrome appears to have eluded them thus far and this is perhaps where the squad overhaul may have worked as a positive, with players needing to prove themselves on an individual basis, as is the case for the likes of Arouna Kone. Indeed, new boss Juan Ignacio Martinez is embarking on his first season in the Spanish top-flight following modest spells in La Segunda.

It would appear that Los Granotes could serve as an ideal springboard for those looking to move up in the Spanish game. Felipe Caicedo and boss Luis Garcia Plaza have moved on with reputations enhanced and the current group may believe they could follow similar trajectories with moderate success at Levante.

Estadi Ciutat de Valencia has seen only home victories so far this campaign with wins over clubs of much higher standing. The victory over Real Madrid in particular has got people wondering whether Levante could continue to surprise and maybe even better the remarkable 14th placed finish they achieved last season.

Away from home they have looked decent without being spectacular, and Betis will certainly be a real test of their ambitions for the season. The home side may be newly-promoted to La Primera but they have adapted very quickly and demonstrated real confidence. However, they are not unbeaten and this just might instil more confidence in Los Granotes to get a positive result at Estadio Benito Villamarín.

Levante have surpassed expectations so far and the question is now whether they can maintain such good form. The squad appears to have retained the positive attitude they displayed last season, although it will be interesting as to how they will react when their unbeaten record is broken. Many coaches subscribe to the idea that you learn more about your team after a defeat and the squad’s reaction will be important as to whether Levante do exceed what many called last season’s miracle.

For Los Granotes, survival is the ultimate goal this year and so far there are plenty of positives for their chances. The supporters are undoubtedly enjoying the lofty position that the team’s hard work has earned them. For many neutral observers, it would be refreshing for La Primera if they continued this form for a little while longer at least.

To make sure you don't miss any of A Different League's Spanish coverage this season, follow the La Liga dedicated Twitter feed: @differentliga

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