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Sociedad close in on Champions League

Real Sociedad have entered the "final sprint" for Champions League qualification after Sunday's 4-2 Primera Liga win over Valencia, coach Philippe Montanier has said.

La Real, who scored three cracking second-half counter-attack goals to get the better of an almost as impressive Valencia, are now five points clear of both Los Che and Malaga in the race for fourth, with five games left.

The French boss said they were close to returning to the Champions League after a decade away, during which they went into and out of administration and spent three seasons in the Segunda Division.

"We are in the final sprint now," he added. "It is a good advantage. We must keep going. We are going to enjoy ourselves for two days and then return to the same work, the same attitude. It is a good advantage, but not definitive."

The San Sebastian club have bet heavily on youth products in recent years, with 11 of the 14 players featured on Sunday - including goalscorers Inigo Martinez and Imanol Agirretxe - having come through their ranks.

Montanier said the latest victory had been very satisfying, adding: "It was a very high quality game against a great opponent.

"We are very satisfied with how we played, and above all with the result. This has been an important day. The players fought against a great opponent, and it was a very sweet game for the fans."

Valencia's players were furious that a clear handball outside the area by La Real goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to stop a goal-bound Roberto Soldado lob when the visitors were 1-0 up had been missed by the officials.

Coach Ernesto Valverde accepted that his side were now unlikely to make the Champions League next season, but said they had deserved more from the game.

"La Real have five points on us and are clear favourites [for fourth] now," he added. "I do not believe they were the better team, we fought until the end - but these days it is very difficult to win a game against them.

"They told me it was a handball in a vital part of the game when we were 1-0 ahead, but we cannot do anything now. Sometimes the referees give, sometimes they take away."


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