La Liga’s relegation tangle

A clutch of La Liga’s lesser lights have spent much of the season in around the Primera relegation zone. Early season basement side Espanyol made a comfortable escape towards mid-table, while Granada and Osasuna both left it late to guarantee a further season of top flight football.

Incredibly, as the final day of the season draws near, each of the bottom four teams has a chance of avoiding the drop, but any three of the four in question will be on their way down to La Segunda come Saturday night. Mallorca are propping up La Liga on 33 points going into the final day. Celta Vigo and Zaragoza both have 34 and Deportivo La Coruna 35.

None of the bottom four face each other in their final vital games, but all four have home advantage, with Deportivo taking on Real Sociedad, Celta hosting Espanyol, Mallorca facing Valladolid and Zaragoza entertaining Atletico Madrid.

Depor have had a wretched return to La Liga, with mounting debts and genuine fears that relegation could sound their death-knell. Their form has marginally improved under Fernando Vazquez, their third Coach this season, but on Saturday they must overcome Real Sociedad to guarantee safety. With the Basques needing to win to keep their Champions League hopes alive, Depor face an uphill task.

A draw will suffice for Depor if Celta, Zaragoza and Mallorca all fail to win against opponents with nothing but pride to play for. A variant of that permutation, with Depor drawing and Mallorca winning would see the northerners survive by virtue of better head-to-head results between the two.  Defeat for the Galicians will mean relegation if any of the other three strugglers win.

If Depor lose and Celta and Zaragoza both draw, Los Turcos will still survive on head to head in a mini-League between the three teams, but would be relegated if they finish level on points with just Zaragoza, on the same head to head ruling, courtesy of Los Blanquillos’ 5-3 win at the Riazor in November giving them a goal difference advantage.

In the event of victories for Celta and Zaragoza seeing those two sides occupy 17th and 18th places, both would have 37 points but Zaragoza would be relegated on head-to-head results. Bottom placed Mallorca have the toughest task. Only a win against Valladolid will give them any chance of staying up, and even then they would be relying on Depor losing and the other two failing to win.

A draw for Gregorio Manzano’s Mallorca coupled with defeats for Celta and Zaragoza would leave all three relegated on 34 points and render Depor’s result irrelevant. The results of the six games between the three would be used to determine League positions, leaving Manolo Jimenez’ side bottom behind Mallorca and then Celta.

Relegation for Mallorca would end a 16-year residency in the top flight for the islanders and Zaragoza’s four-year stay would be brought to a conclusion while Abel Resino’s Celta would return to La Segunda after just one season back in La Liga.

Meanwhile, Segunda champions Elche have secured a return to La Primera after a 24-year absence with Villarreal, Almeria, Girona and Alcorcon vying for the second automatic promotion place and Ponferradina and Las Palmas also in the mix for elevation via the play-offs.