Valencian derby goes European

There's something special about the upcoming encounter between Levante and Valencia, and that is for the first time ever coming into the game both clubs are appearing off the back of European adventures. It's special for Levante in particular in their first ever season in Europe, with their more illustrious neighbours already used to such travels.

The adjustments are harsh too, given that Juan Ignacio Martinez has two days to prepare his team for a fixture that means everything to the supporters. Valencia meanwhile played Tuesday, and won comfortably against Lille, so they've had the extra recuperation time which could be massive come Sunday in what is set to be a typically pleasant Turia morning.

Both will have to make use of whatever time they're afforded too, as troubles persist in each camp.

JIM, as well as having to deal with a potential European hangover, needs to focus on Levante's troublesome midfield. The pairing of Vicente Iborra and Papa Diop have yet to click, with the former obviously missing the connection he had with the departed Xavi Torres.

Most worrying is the form of last season's surprise star Barkero. He's had a dreadful start to the current campaign and is clearly suffering physically. The sharp movement and interplay of last season too, is yet to surface. There is no genuine replacement either, as the talented Michel prefers a deeper lying, less physically demanding role. This is impacting on the attacking aspect of JIM's game too, as Levante are more than ever looking for a more direct threat, which can often become predictable. Osasuna coped easily last weekend in Pamplona, and managed to counter a lethargic Levante with a 4-0 hammering.

The motivation and squad rotation techniques will be decisive for Levante in the derby, as will their home form, which has seen them undefeated in their last 5.

At Valencia, things are still failing to spark despite the convincing midweek win. It's Mauricio Pellegrino's first derby as a Coach and much will be detracted from how he navigates this important game. Pellegrino has much work to do with the defence as the usual partnership of Victor Ruiz and Adil Rami continues to offer little in the way of assurance – the Spaniard is sluggish at times while Rami's overly aggressive approach has cost the team dearly. They'll likely be together here, despite youngster Carlos Delgado performing well in his debut against Lille.

In midfield they've improved slightly, much due to the return of Fernando Gago. He's a soothing presence in front of the chaotic backline, and he'll look to control the game in the face of Iborra and Diop. Sofaine Feghouli's suspension of thre games, which it must be said is awfully harsh, will rob Pellegrino of one of his star performers too – the Algerian scored his third of the season in the win over Real Zaragoza last weekend. Although Roberto Soldado has yet to fire, he has just two goals in eight appearances, it's his underrated partner who might be the key man here.

Jonas bagged a brace against Lille, and insisted afterwards that his target is ‘25 goals or more for the season’, which would be an improvement on his 19 in all competitions in 2011-12. His role this season has seen him integrate more movement in his game – drifting out wide, closing down defensive transitions and dropping deep to link play. Goals are hardly his strongest suit, but when he does deliver it's often at an important time. Sunday certainly falls into that category.

Last season Levante entered the game in fourth, and two points ahead of Valencia, but it's Pellegrino's men who hold a point advantage this time. Come Sunday, it will be time to see who has the European hangover and who found the best cure.