Drama to unfold as sides fight for survival in Spain

Madrid, April 16 (IANS) Although the race for the title in Spain’s La Liga is a foregone conclusion as FC Barcelona march towards the title with a 13-point lead over Real Madrid, the battle to avoid relegation to the second division (Liga Adelante) is becoming too close to call with perhaps seven sides all battling to avoid the drop.

Mallorca’s dramatic 1-0 home win against Celta Vigo Monday night leaves Celta bottom of the table with 24 points, three less than Mallorca and Zaragoza, who occupy the other two relegation zones, reports Xinhua.

Celta entertain Zaragoza next weekend and the result could seal the fate of either or both the teams. Celta have taken just one point from their last six games and the decision to replace former coach Paco Herrera with Abel Resino has not provoked the expected reaction.

Zaragoza, meanwhile, have not won since December and a 14-game run has seen them go from launching a possible challenge for Europe to staring being dropped.

Mallorca will take hope from Monday’s win. They have improved since Gregorio Manzano replaced Joaquin Caparros on the bench and have their future in their own hands with three home games.

Granada have also slipped into trouble and have just one point more than Mallorca and Zaragoza after taking just two points from their last eight games. Granada gambled on change of coach, bringing in Lucas Alcaraz and he inspired a short-lived recovery with wins against Real Madrid and Deportivo la Coruna, which seemed to drag his side clear of danger. But that has fallen apart as the side conceded five goals in its last two games.

There is a different mood in La Coruna, where Deportivo were looking buried when Fernando Vazquez came out of semi-retirement to become their third coach of the season in March. Vazquez’ appointment was seen as a desperate measure by the club. Vazquez has worked out a minor miracle and four wins from four games have lifted his side from the bottom to 16th, two points above the drop.

Osasuna are three points above Deportivo and although they are four points above the relegation zone, the next three matches could see them slip backwards. Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar will hope his side can recover their form.

Athletic Club Bilbao may appear safe with an eight point cushion with just seven games to go but still have to entertain direct rivals to avoid the drop in May. The good news for Athletic is that their future is in their own hands and two wins will assure their safety. But defeats to the sides below them could still cause them worry.

The end of the season always produces surprises in Spain as sides with their future at stake face teams with less to play for and with some sides recovering, others sliding down the table, it should produce a closing month and a half which is not suitable for those of a nervous disposition.

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