Sporting v Levante preview
Javier Clemente rejects talk of a rift with Sporting Gijon's players ahead of the Levante game.
Last Updated: 11/04/12 3:22pm
Sporting Gijon coach Javier Clemente has played down talk of a rift with his players after he appeared to criticise the quality of his squad.
Speaking after Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Getafe, which left Sporting seven points off safety at the bottom of the Primera Division table, Clemente was quoted as having compared his position to that of a driver entering a Formula One race without a Formula One car.
But the former Spain boss insists he did not insult his squad and has now turned his attention to Wednesday night's home game against a Levante side for whom he has a lot of respect.
He told the club's website: "I have never said anything bad about [any of] my squads - much less this one, which gives everything it can.
"Levante are a very difficult team. For me they are the team of the season and I would like it if they qualified for the Champions League, although not at our cost.
"They are very well set up. Defensively they are like a rock and in this sense we have more holes."
Clemente surprised many with his starting line-up for the Getafe game and he is expected to make another raft of changes with David Barral, Andre Castro and Nacho Cases all likely to return.
Levante, by contrast, are flying high - just one point behind fourth-placed Valencia - and midfielder Jose Barkero is enjoying what he has called a "perfect year".
He told Marca: "When you have confidence that everything goes well, you have a great desire and my team-mates and I are having the perfect year.
"We are close to achieving a European place, we have a good advantage over Getafe, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Osasuna and we need to continue on this run.
"It is nice but we know that if we lose two games they can overtake us. When you say you are going to achieve something and then you don't it leaves a bittersweet taste."
Juan Ignacio Martinez is expected to largely keep faith with the side that beat Atletico Madrid 2-0 at the weekend, although there could be a place for Pedro Botelho ahead of Abdelkader Ghezzal.
Best bet: Levante -1 - 5/1