La Liga Preview: Rayo meet Almeria in crunch clash

The battle to avoid relegation takes centre stage this weekend as Rayo Vallecano host Almeria in a crucial match at the bottom of La Liga.

The duo occupy two of the three relegation spots with Almeria currently only above Vallecano due to a superior goal difference, while Real Valladolid - fresh from stunning champions Barcelona - also have 26 points and remain mired in relegation trouble in 17th.

Vallecano may be fighting to stave off the threat of the drop, but they head into Saturday's encounter at the Estadio del Rayo Vallecano in promising form.

Paco Jemez's men have won three of their last five league matches, including a spirited 3-2 victory at Real Sociedad on Monday, which followed a 1-0 success over Valencia.

After two hard-fought victories, Paco is now hoping to pick up points against sides closer to Vallecano in the table.

Speaking to the club's official website, he said: "After taking six points against Valencia and Real (Sociedad) that can be worth a lot, now we have to fight with the teams that are down. Now is when we depend on us more than ever."

In contrast to Valladolid's upturn, Almeria's past four games have yielded just a solitary point and their defence has been breached seven times in the last two Liga fixtures.

Valladolid will be well aware that a loss will see them slump into the bottom three, but they travel to Sevilla on the back of a shock 1-0 victory over Barca last weekend.

However, Valladolid meet a Sevilla side that has recorded three Liga victories on the spin and another three points would boost hopes of European qualification.

Real Betis' chances of staying up are increasingly slim, although they visit fellow strugglers Elche on the back of a morale-boosting 2-0 win over Getafe.

Getafe are winless in the league since November - a run that cost Luis Garcia his job on Monday - and are just one points about the drop zone. Next up on Friday are a Granada side looking to appease their own relegation fears, despite a seemingly comfortable league position of 12th.

Osasuna are also in danger and travel to Camp Nou to face Barcelona at possibly the worst time, as Gerardo Martino's men will be desperate to avenge the Valladolid setback.

The result left the Catalans in third, four points adrift of Liga leaders Real Madrid and a further point behind Atletico Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti's Real side, who are on a 17-match unbeaten run in the league, will attempt to firm their grasp on top spot at Malaga, while Atleti's challenge continues when they host Espanyol at Vicente Calderon.

Elsewhere, Villarreal can cut the gap to fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao to four points when the two face off, while Real Sociedad and Levante have home matches with Valencia and Celta Vigo respectively.