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Brutal differences divide Valencia derby

A 2-0 reverse at Osasuna last weekend was Levante's first defeat this season, ending a run of seven consecutive victories, and allowed Real Madrid and Barcelona to overhaul them in to first and second place respectively.

Levante are third with 23 points from 10 matches, two behind leaders Real and one short of champions Barcelona, but importantly for their fans they are still two ahead of fourth-placed Valencia.

For the first time in nearly half a century the sides meet at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium with Levante lording it over their more illustrious neighbours.

"We head into a match with a little bit more than just three points at stake," Levante captain Sergio Ballesteros told reporters.

"We can't say we are favourites, especially against sides who are competing in the Champions League. It's ridiculous. The teams with weight, bigger squads and fan bases are them. The differences are brutal.

"We are in a situation completely unlike ones we have experienced in recent years, and we cannot afford to get drawn into individual battles and rivalries. Our objective is clear and understood by everyone... to avoid relegation."

Tiny Levante have won wide-reaching respect this season going top for the first time in their 102-year history and making headlines when they upset Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid 1-0 in September.

They have even found support among Valencia supporters, who whistled their own hardcore elements when they chanted against their city rivals during Tuesday's 3-1 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen.

Valencia, like Levante, are no strangers to financial difficulties but operate on a budget five times bigger and have the bonus of income from European competition.

Unai Emery's side kept alive their hopes of progressing in the Champions League with a first group win on Tuesday, but lost playmaker Ever Banega to a knee injury.

The Argentine has been one of their most effective players recently and his natural replacement Sergio Canales also succumbed to a long-term knee injury last week.

Leaders Real host Osasuna on Sunday seeking to extend a devastating run of form. They have won nine on the trot in all competitions, scoring 31 times and conceding only three.

In Wednesday's Champions League win at Olympique Lyon Cristiano Ronaldo passed the 100 goal-mark since completing his world record transfer to Madrid two years ago.

Ronaldo's goal-scoring feats are mirrored at Barcelona where Lionel Messi broke the 200-goal mark, albeit over a longer period, in their midweek Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen.

Unbeaten Barca travel to play Athletic Bilbao on Sunday having scored 26 in their last nine outings without conceding once.