Zaragoza at risk in nine-way relegation battle

MADRID - With the league title decided and Spain's seven European qualification slots all but wrapped up, attention in La Liga switches to the desperate scramble to avoid relegation this weekend.

Almeria and Hercules have already lost their top-flight status but nine teams between Real Zaragoza in 18th place and Malaga in 10th are still mathematically under threat with two rounds of matches left to play.

All 10 games have been scheduled to kick-off at the same time on Sunday.

Zaragoza, who beat Arsenal 2-1 in extra-time to win the European Cup winners' Cup this week 16 years ago, occupy the last relegation slot with 39 points and they are one point behind Getafe and safety.

Consecutive defeats to fellow strugglers Osasuna and Real Sociedad in the run-in means their last home game of the campaign against Espanyol will be a nerve-wracking affair.

"It is now out of our own hands which is the worst part of tonight's result," coach Javier Aguirre told reporters after his side conceded a late goal to lose 2-1 in San Sebastian on Wednesday.

Aguirre, who led Mexico at the World Cup finals last year, added: "All we can do is win the last six points and hope for the best."

Zaragoza, like many of their relegation rivals, have severe financial problems and relegation could be ruinous.

Getafe's ambitious plans to push for European football in the future, with investment from new owners the Dubai-based Royal Emirates Group, require them to improve when they host Osasuna (14th with 44).

Above them 16th-placed Deportivo La Coruna (42) visit the Nou Camp, while 15th-placed Sporting Gijon (43) host Racing Santander, who are safe from the drop.

TITLE CELEBRATIONS

Leaders Barcelona secured their third consecutive league title on Wednesday climbing to 92 points, and will parade the trophy in front of their own fans when Deportivo visit.

Pep Guardiola will be looking to rotate his squad as they turn their attentions to the Champions League Final against Manchester United on May 28.

Real Madrid, who have 86 points, are finishing the campaign at a gallop, and visit fourth-placed Villarreal, with Cristiano Ronaldo in unstoppable form.

The Portuguese forward has scored seven times in the last two outings to take his league tally to 36 for the season.

He is just two away from matching the record held jointly by former Real striker Hugo Sanchez (1989/90) and Athletic Bilbao's Telmo Zarra (1950/51).

A point for third-placed Valencia at home to Levante will assure them of the last automatic Champions League qualification slot.


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