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Off-the-radar: Camarasa and Lerma – the yin to the yang

Sarthak Kumar tells us more about two young players who are, together, changing Levante’s midfield for the better.

Alex Caparros/Getty Images

After match day nine manager Luis Alcaraz was sacked and Levante were bottom of the table. After match day ten Levante were reeling from a 3-0 defeat at Valencia and even after matchday eleven Levante were still bottom of the table. Eleven matches in and Levante were in tatters.

Rubi, the former assistant Barcelona manager to Tito Vilanova, had remained defiant. The same starting eleven, the same tactics, the same 4-3-3 formation, the same desire to keep the ball. With the same result - Levante were at the bottom.

Ahead of the game against Sporting Gijón, Rubi had said of the team: "They're doing things almost perfectly". He was both right and wrong. They did do things almost perfectly. Just that it was Levante, not Sporting.

The lineups were announced and Levante stuck with the exact same midfield. It was bold, especially against the creativity of Jony and Alen Halilović. But it was the right decision. Smart and tidy in possession, Camarasa and Lerma stole the show.

Two players, two styles, one midfield

21-year-old Spaniard Víctor Camarasa, the heartbeat, dictates the flow of play. Neat and tidy in possession, strong in the tackle and elegant in his passing, it's no wonder that big teams have chased him in the past. Barcelona wanted him over the summer and so did Atlético - he has the versatility of Koke and the underrated vision and eye for goal of Rakitić.

21-year-old Colombian Jefferson Lerma complements this calmness with his chaos. He chases down players everywhere - sometimes in his own box. Credit goes to the Levante scouts for spotting him at lowly Atlético Huila in Columbia, for he has been a revelation.

While Camarasa keeps the game ticking, Lerma keeps the play flowing. Or keeps disrupting the opposition.

A perfect match

On matchday eleven, Levante had drawn against Deportivo 1-1. Levante had been the better side but finishing had cost them dearly - fifteen shots had been peppered - and the solitary goal had been scored by Camarasa.

Rubi had made the right decision. And against Sporting Camarasa and Lerma were at their best. Lerma was everywhere, and both Jony and Alen looked out of their depth. Camarasa, metronomic as always, made sure that when Levante had the ball they were dangerous, and when Levante didn't have the ball Sporting were not. Levante were so dominant, a 3-0 win doesn't tell the whole story - 6 shots on target against 2, eight dribbles won against 5, 15 interceptions against 11...the list goes on.

Levante were off the foot of the table - it wasn't much but it was a start.

It was the same story on matchday 14 against Espanyol - Camarasa and Lerma destroyed Espanyol at their own ground - Levante had 12 shots versus 9 and were dangerous everywhere. Marco Asensio and Víctor Álvarez were completely ineffective, and made Espanyol sweat for a point in an eventual 1-1 draw. Lerma had scored for Levante. How?

By pressing, stealing the ball off defender Enzo Roco and running towards goal unopposed.

And yesterday, against Rayo Vallecano, Levante did everything they needed to win, but they weren't winning. In came Camarasa, out came two goals. The passing was less hurried and the chances created more precise. Rayo could do nothing - Camarasa dictated the flow of play and Lerma made sure Rayo could do nothing with it anyway.

Destined for bigger things?

Levante made some amazing signings this summer, including the triple signings of experienced goalkeeper Rubén, fast and tough-tackling center-back Ángel Trujillo and classy midfielder Verza - all from Almería.

Let's focus on Verza. He is in his prime at 29 years old and he has always been the talisman of Almería through thick and thin since 2011. He is the captain, the playmaker, the penalty taker and drives the team at his tempo. And he's really good at it too.

Yet, he has been demoted to super-sub status by Camarasa and Lerma, and comes on only when a game needs to be finished off or when a goal is desperately needed.

Shrewd signings have increased Levante's squad depth and they have the quality to avoid relegation. But more exciting is the fact that a Spaniard and a Columbian are changing the dynamics of Levante's midfield, are benching a quality La Liga player and regularly producing match winning moments.

Hopefully, they will continue to do so, and have successful careers in La Liga.

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