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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 15, 2008

Relegation battle takes centre stage in Spain

MADRID, May 15 (Reuters) - With the title race decided and the Champions League places settled, attention will switch to the battle to avoid relegation in the final round of matches in the Primera Liga this weekend.

Levante and Real Murcia have already been condemned to the drop, but any one of four other teams -- Real Zaragoza, Osasuna, Recreativo Huelva and Valladolid -- could join them in the second division next season.

The way the matches have fallen means that all four clubs have their fate in their own hands and victory will secure their survival in the top flight.

Zaragoza, who occupy the final relegation berth, have a tough challenge in their match at Real Mallorca on Sunday.

The islanders, who came from two goals down to beat Barcelona 3-2 at the Nou Camp last weekend, are on a five-match winning run and still have a chance of qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

At the start of the season, Zaragoza were tipped to be challenging for a Champions League berth but their classy-looking squad has failed to perform and three different coaches have fallen by the wayside during the campaign.

Zaragoza drew 2-2 at home to champions Real Madrid last weekend but their last away victory was at the end of October.

'We have to be prepared to die out there and do whatever it takes to win,' captain Alberto Zapater told reporters this week. 'The whole season rests on this one game.

'All the players feel that this is like a final where everything is at stake and winning is the only result that will do.'

Osasuna, who are a point above Zaragoza, have a similarly tricky task in their game at sixth-placed Racing Santander.

The Navarrans ended a four-match losing run with a 2-1 win at Murcia last time out but Racing need a victory to ensure their first ever appearance in the UEFA Cup.

The clash between Recreativo and Valladolid promises to be the most nerve-racking of all.

A draw would be enough for Valladolid as they have the better of Zaragoza on head-to-heads, but Recre need to go for the win unless Osasuna slip up against Racing.

'We just have to go for the win,' Recre coach Manolo Zambrano said.

'A point will do for Valladolid but for us to be mathematically safe we have to win the game. There will be no chance for either side to ease up.'

At the other end of the table, champions Real Madrid had been hoping to receive the league trophy in front of their own fans in Sunday's match against Levante at the Bernabeu.

The game, however, has been thrown into doubt after Levante players announced they will be going on strike from Saturday in protest at the club's failure to pay them money owed from as far back as last season.

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