MADRID, May 8 (Reuters) - Real Zaragoza need to derail a rampant Real Madrid on Sunday if they are to avoid a nail-biting relegation scrap in their last game of the Primera Liga season next weekend.
Manolo Villanova's side are just above the bottom three with 41 points, ahead of Recreativo Huelva and Osasuna respectively, who are tied on 40.
It is a far cry from last August when Zaragoza were widely tipped as contenders for a Champions League place, and even outsiders for the title, following their sixth-placed finish in the 2006/7 season.
After a disappointing campaign that has seen three coaches depart the club, Zaragoza failed to beat another direct rival for the drop Valencia on Wednesday, going down 1-0 at the Mestalla.
They remain 16th as Recre and Osasuna lost as well, and look set to fight it out with both to avoid the last relegation place. Levante and Real Murcia are already condemned to second division football.
'Despite the defeat we have to see the bottle as half full. We are capable of beating Real and if we do, it will be a huge step towards saving ourselves. I think we'll be safe with 45 points,' Villanova said.
Zaragoza famously beat Real 3-2 in the King's Cup final in 2004, and knocked them out of the same competition at the semi-final stage in 2006 helped by a stunning 6-1 home leg victory.
On Sunday, however, they meet a Real side already crowned champions, who have won five in a row and who hammered Barcelona 4-1 during the week.
Recre visit Almeria for an Andalucian derby, and Osasuna host already-relegated Murcia.
With Real and Villarreal guaranteed first and second places, Barcelona need to pick themselves up to make sure of third with a win at home to Real Mallorca.
The islanders are seventh with 53 points and have a chance of claiming one of the two UEFA Cup spots for next season.
Fourth-placed Atletico Madrid lead the race for the last Champions League berth on 58 points, and can put clear water between themselves and Sevilla with a win at Espanyol on Thursday.
Atletico host form-team Deportivo Coruna on Sunday. Depor, eighth with 52 points, have an outside shot at a UEFA Cup place.
Sevilla (58) thumped Racing Santander 3-0 away on Wednesday to overtake them in fifth place and face a short trip across the city to arch-rivals Real Betis.
'Although they don't have much to play for they are not going to gift us anything because of the rivalry. The history is always there,' Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez said.
Racing (56), who have lost three of their last four games, visit north-coast rivals Athletic Bilbao.