MADRID - Sevilla's players cannot afford to relax even though they are well placed to secure one of the two remaining berths in next season's Champions League, according to goalkeeper Andres Palop. The fight for lucrative spots in Europe's top club competition and the battle to avoid relegation could both be decided this weekend, with Barcelona already crowned Primera Liga champions and Real Madrid assured of second place. Sevilla, on 64 points with two matches left, are in third ahead of Saturday's potentially tricky home clash against seventh-placed Deportivo Coruna, who still have a slim chance of Champions League football next term. Atletico Madrid, in fourth, have 61 and play at Athletic Bilbao while Valencia and Villarreal, in the Europa League qualification places in fifth and sixth on 59, face off at the Madrigal. Deportivo are two points back. "We cannot let our guard down," Palop said on Sevilla's website. "We have to keep fighting, stay alert and forget everything else because we have had a very good season. "We still have not made sure of anything mathematically but it's in our hands and all the teams up there want to be in that position, to be able to decide their own fate." Villarreal made sure Barca won the title with three matches to spare by beating holders Real 3-2 last weekend and their Argentine midfielder Ariel Ibagaza said the victory had filled the players with confidence for the Valencia match. "It's definitely going to be a very open game and the team that goes for goals is going to be the one that wins," he told the club's website. "We have to do what we need to, which is win, and see what happens at the other stadiums," he added. DISTRACTED BARCA At the other end of the table, 18th-placed Osasuna could benefit from playing a weakened Barcelona side distracted by next Wednesday's Champions League final and the celebrations planned for their first home match since securing the title. Barca coach Pep Guardiola fielded a second-string side last weekend in the 2-1 defeat at Real Mallorca and is likely to do so again on Saturday to avoid any injuries to key players before the match in Rome against Manchester United. "The team will be ready," Osasuna's Uruguayan striker Walter Pandiani said on the club's website. "It's the final stretch and we cannot allow ourselves to throw away all the work we have put in during the second half of the season. Now we have to show what we're made of." Bottom club Recreativo Huelva, who have 33 points, host mid-table Racing Santander, while second-from-bottom Numancia (35) travel to Getafe, who are just above the relegation places on 38. Sporting Gijon, who play at Real Valladolid, have 37 points, the same number as Osasuna, but are above the Pamplona-based side in 17th thanks to a better head-to-head record. Espanyol, who play at Almeria, and Real Betis, who travel to Malaga, are precariously placed on 41 and 40 points respectively, while trophyless Real Madrid host Mallorca in the only match being played on Sunday.
21 May 2009
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