La Liga’s Relegation Rumble: The runners and riders

While Athletic Bilbao, Valladolid and Levante peer nervously down at the relegation fight, all three just need to be barely competent from this point onwards to avoid the trap door. The six teams listed below, in contrast, need their performances in the final seven games to range from "very good" to "uncharacteristically world-class".

Like a lingering camera shot from a Michael Bay flick, we start from the bottom upwards....

20th Celta Vigo 24ptsThe Galicians were once the People’s Princess of Primera clubs. Everyone from Seville to Santander wished good things upon the side who had been out of the top flight for five seasons. Plucky Celta played pretty football but couldn’t get the results, which only made the fishy-whiffed ones even more lovable. 

At this point, club president Carlos Mouriño really managed to stuff things up for Celta. Paco Herrera was sacked in February despite the former Liverpool trainer taking the club up to la Primera and having supposed unconditional support from his boss. He was replaced by Abel Resino, a manager as amiable and cuddly as Donald Rumsfeld with shinsplints.

It didn't help, and from then on nor did the Celta players. A disastrous defeat to Deportivo saw top scorer Iago Aspas suspended for four matches for head-butting Carlos Marchena. Injured Hugo Mallo was seen in the stands taunting opposition supporters, to leave a squabbling squad having lost public sympathy. Monday’s late defeat to Mallorca now leaves Celta with just a single victory in 13 and four from safety.

19th Mallorca 27ptsGiovani dos Santos has given Mallorca hope that a survival bid could be successful with an injury-time winner against Celta Vigo, showing once again that the Mexican is the club’s Obi-Wan Kenobi only hope.

"Giovani is for Mallorca what Cristiano is for Real Madrid,” opined manager Gregorio Manzano. The problem there is whilst Ronaldo is the ultimate professional and inhumanly consistent, Giovani dos Santos is, well, Giovani dos Santos – potentially excellent but as reliable as a chocolate nuclear reactor.

One advantage Mallorca have is that their run-in includes three teams who might be utterly unmotivated in mid-table: Rayo, Levante and Valladolid. The really big niggling problem is that Mallorca aren’t very good, which puts the players at a bit of disadvantage when three clubs are slipping into la Segunda.

18th Zaragoza 27ptsOh dear. Victory-free in 2013, Zaragoza are about to equal the club’s longest winless run, which dates back to the era of Vera Lynn. However, the side lead by Manolo Jiménez has been in similar circumstances before. Last year, in fact, when all looked lost before they pulled off five wins from six in the final matches of the season.

That skin-saving run was completed with a victory over Getafe, witnessed in person by LLL. The opposition looked strangely unmotivated but also rather careless in going down to nine men, which certainly didn't hinder Zaragoza. The next two games at Celta and home to Mallorca will be against rivals who are a little more up for it, and this could cost Zaragoza a Primera place after four years of struggle.

17th Granada 28pts It doesn’t say a great deal about the quality of sides at the bottom that Granada aren’t rock bottom. Indeed, the Andalusians have only spent three rounds in the drop zone, which is quite remarkable considering they have almost nothing going for them.

Just two points have been picked up from the past 24 and the club are still living off February's fluked victory over Real Madrid, which had everyone thinking that newly-arrived coach Lucas Alcaraz could keep Granada up.

That might still be possible, though, as the southerners are outrageously lucky and appear to be able to dig out results when required. There are two very winnable matches in the run-in, the first against Valladolid this weekend, and the last against Getafe. However, there are some real toughies in between.

16th Deportivo 29ptsLLL was trying to argue the other day that Deportivo had too many points for this stage of the season and that three wins in a row had damaged the chances of the club’s survival. Nonsense, of course, but the vague, half-formed notion behind the claim was that Deportivo really need to beware the feeling that the job has been done now that the club is off the bottom and out of the relegation zone. After all, looking down is scarier than looking up. Unless a piano or an anvil is about to fall on your head.

The Galicians will probably need four more wins but most of their final seven games are against clubs who also have a lot at stake. Athletic Bilbao, Betis, Atlético Madrid, Málaga and Real Sociedad are going to be quite the challenge for the squad, who have been through the wringer this season.

15th Osasuna 31pts LLL really could take or leave Mallorca or Granada going down, but would be genuinely upset to see the departure of Osasuna after over a decade of fun-filled Primera action. But the blog feels that everything will be OK again in Pamplona, as Osasuna have a trick of flooring the accelerator when required and are capable of putting together a string of results. Three wins and a cheeky draw will be needed and Getafe, Granada and Sevilla are on the horizon to provide at least part of those needs.

LLL prediction: Celta, Mallorca and Deportivo to drop.

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