At the first time of asking, Levante UD have regained their La Liga status and will join Valencia CF in the top flight of Spanish football next season. ‘Los Granotas’ have totally dominated their league from the beginning of this year’s campaign.

They confirmed their place alongside Valencia for 2017-18 with a nervy 1-0 victory over Real Oviedo. Sergio Postigo headed home from a corner to give head coach Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz and his team the necessary points to trigger wild celebrations at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium.

This is the fifth time the club from the North of the city have been promoted to the premier division, having achieved the feat previously in 1963, 2004, 2006 and 2010. With Osasuna and Granada’s fate already sealed in the premier flight, the third relegation spot now seems destined for Sporting Gijon. Valencia are already assured of remaining in the division, despite a wretched run of recent form that has yielded only one point from a possible twelve.

The season on the whole has been mediocre for all concerned with Valencia CF. There have been moments of hope and excitement for the fans…but those too have usually ended in frustration. This was highlighted perfectly in the home game with Real Sociedad that was attended by just 30,000 spectators. Most of them had only just settled in their seats when the team from San Sebastian took the lead after just 39 seconds. Diego Alves managed to turn a tame shot from the byline into his own goal, when there was very little danger lurking elsewhere from the Sociedad attack. With just over two thirds of the game gone, Los Che were chasing a three goal deficit and the stadium was still to hear any kind of positive chant from the Curva Nord. Then, the referee gave the hosts a lifeline by awarding them a cheap penalty and Nani made no mistake.

A flurry of Valencia attacks were rewarded when Zaza rammed the ball home at the back post from close range to make the score 3-2 to Real. The last twenty minutes saw a constant bombardment on the visitor’s goal but the equaliser never materialised and, once again, the home supporters went home disgruntled. A trip to the Santiago Bernabeu is always a daunting task and with Real Madrid scrapping it out with Barcelona for the title it was always going to be difficult to return to Valencia with points.Ronaldo opened the scoring with a glancing header not unlike the one he scored at the Mestalla earlier in the season. Dani Parejo then did what Guilherme Siqueira had done the week before, gave away a penalty when there was very little danger. The Valencia defence, and in particular Diego Alves, stalled the spot kick by arguing with the referee and confronting Ronaldo…the impending penalty taker.

Their tactics worked as the Portuguese superstar shot tamely, allowing Alves to add to his already record breaking total of penalty saves. Valencia then looked to have snatched a point in the 82nd minute when Parejo made amends for his rash challenge by drilling a perfectly placed free kick over the wall and into the top corner of the Real Madrid net. However, Marcelo, who is in the form of his life, gave the hosts victory four minutes from time. He cut in from the left and curled a right foot shot past the despairing dive of Alves, to keep the pressure firmly on Barcelona in a title fight that looks to be going down to the very last game.

With nothing left to play for in the remaining games, the supporters are beginning to discuss in the bars and tabernas in the city who will and who will not be at the Mestalla next season.

Middlesbrough have already stated they have no interested in making the loan deal for Alvaro Negredo a permanent one and there are frequent rumours in the press that Nani will not be at the Mestalla next season, allowing Jorge Mendes once again to negotiate another inflated transfer fee. Joao Cancelo is another Mendes based player who is likely to leave, although FC Barcelona seem to have curbed their interest somewhat.

Valencia look unlikely to keep Fabian Orellana who signed on loan in the winter from Celta Vigo. However, the other major acquisition in the January transfer market, Eliaquim Mangala, is someone Los Che would probably love to keep if a deal can be done with Manchester City and the player wants to stay.

On the administration front, the mouthpiece in the city for owner Peter Lim, Chan Lay Hoon, will step down from her President’s post in July. She will be replaced by fellow Singaporean and former diplomat Anil Murthy, who will move upwards from his current post as an executive director on the Valencia board.

This appointment will do little to appease the fractious relationship between Lim and the fans. It also remains to be seen what kind of commitment Lim will give to Voro as manager. He has done a wonderful job, once again, in stabilizing the club when it was in free-fall. However, you can’t help but feel that once again the owner will be looking for a marquee name to be at the helm come August and the new season. Indeed, as we go to press, Marcelino is now offically the new manager of Valencia CF.

Finally, once again the city’s football afcionados came out in force to support the historic female derby match between Valencia and Levante played at the Mestalla last month. Over 17,000 spectators saw Valencia beat their Levante counterparts 6-0. With Levante’s confirmed promotion, both sets of fans can look forward to two more meaningful derby clashes again next year. Anyone wishing to get tickets for games can do so by buying direct from the ticket offices at the respective grounds.

John Howden
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