Build-up begins for Champions League final, while La Liga's strugglers ponder managerial directions

Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid have a lot to look forward to at San Siro this weekend but, as Tim Stannard explains, the situation at Valencia and Malaga is rather different...

The passing of the baton of glory, truth, freedom and the Spanish Way has all gone very peacefully. 

Sevilla mopped up Liverpool in the Europa League final last Wednesday, before giving all the juice left in their Andalusian bodies but eventually allowing Barcelona another moment in the limelight in the Copa del Rey final. Now both are dutifully standing aside to allow two other teams from La Liga the chance to make footballing waves, while the supposed cream of Europe lick their wounds.

But while Barcelona and Sevilla have enjoyed their various fiestas with fans to celebrate the three trophies won between them over the past fortnight, the build-up to the Champions League final – which will largely consist of two sets of fans and players forecasting the game to be a hard-fought 50-50 – has begun.

But rather than sitting on the fence in true footballer style, that prognosis of the game sounds about right. LLL's head currently says that Atlético Madrid will triumph thanks to their strong recent record agains their neighbours – plus performances against Bayern Munich and Barcelona – but the heart is leaning towards Real Madrid coming out on top after being so jammy two years ago.

Where next for Valencia?

The current navel-gazing exercise had been to examine who will be the at the managerial helm for the new season, but Gary Neville replacement Pako Ayestarán has been handed a two-year contract to get the job (whatever that may be) done

One club that would give their Mestalla pinkies to make Spain's quartet of success a quintet next year is Valencia.

At the moment the club is going through its fifth reboot in two years, roughly having the same success as the Fantastic Four. The current navel-gazing exercise had been to examine who will be the at the managerial helm for the new season, but Gary Neville replacement Pako Ayestarán has been handed a two-year contract to get the job (whatever that may be) done. 

Phil Neville

Perhaps Valencia will try their luck with another Neville if Ayestarán departs this summer...

There has been a brain-storming session in Singapore, with the club’s owner Peter Lim declaring with some ambition that “Valencia should be above egotism and individual interests”. It’s a familiar mantra from over the years, but the club is the equivalent of a haunted house that turns its previous level-headed inhabitants into axe-wielding fruit loops after just one night. 

Merry-go-round

Rayo Vallecano are still contemplating life in the second division, and whether the cavalier Paco Jémez is the right man to lead them there. While that's going on, the manager who maintains that losing by 10 is just the same as by one might be in line to take over at Espanyol, whose owners seemingly want to enjoy taking a walk on the wild side next season. 

One move that does appear to have come out of the blue is Málaga coach Javi Gracia heading to Russia to take over at Rubin Kazan. Although the Spaniard had only extended his contract with the southern side until 2019 back in March, the offer of having his salary increased 10 times could be enough to wrench him away from the club. Funny that. 

His departure will remove some much-needed stability from a Málaga team that not too long ago was also treading the same path of some European giants as the current wave of Spanish power prevails across the continent. 

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