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Madrid ready for 'difficult match' at Levante

Real Madrid will hope to close the gap on first Barcelona on Sunday when it heads to the Ciutat de Valencia to take on Levante.

Separated by just three points in the La Liga table, Levante will be looking to go level with Madrid by taking all three points at home, but that would entail spoiling the sublime for exhibited by the reigning champions.

Madrid brings a six-game unbeaten streak into the Ciutat de Valencia, taking 16 points over that stretch by a combined score of 20-3.

A surprising figure in Real's stout defensive lineup this season has been youngster Raphael Varane.

The 19-year-old has become a revelation this season, making seven league starts for Madrid and helping lead the club to the best defensive record in Spain's top flight with just seven goals conceded through 10 games. The France youth international was quick to attribute his recent successes to Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho.

"Mourinho gives me a lot," Varane told the club's official website. "He trusts in me, he lets me express myself and he shows me the demands of elite sport and everything that implies. I learn a lot from him."

Varane showed experience beyond his years by insisting that Real Madrid is not taking Levante lightly.

"It will be a difficult match," Varane continued. "We know that Levante are a good team and we will have to be alert to measure up in every aspect of the match. It will be a very physical match."

Levante is unbeaten in its last four league games, picking up 10 points over that stretch.

In order for Real Madrid to make up any ground on Barcelona, the Catalans must drop points in their trip to the Iberostar Stadium on Sunday. They will take on a Mallorca side that has not earned a point from a La Liga match since its 2-0 defeat of Valencia on September 23.

Also on Sunday, Atletico Madrid looks to bounce back from a lost to Valencia when it hosts Getafe at the Vicente Calderon, Valencia heads to the Jose Zorrilla to take on Valladolid, and Athletic Bilbao hopes to get back on track when it hosts Sevilla at San Memes.

On Saturday, Osasuna hopes to avoid a third straight defeat when it heads to the Estadi Cornella-El Prat to face Espanyol, Malaga tries to climb back into the top-four with maximum points against Real Sociedad, Rayo Vallecano looks to build upon its surprising defeat of Malaga when it welcomes Celta Vigo to the Teresa Rivero, and Deportivo tries to extend its unbeaten record to three games when it heads to the Estadio La Romareda to face Real Zaragoza.

In Friday's lone La Liga contest, Real Betis saw its four-game unbeaten streak in league play come to a halt as it fell to Granada 2-1 at home.