Tense times in La Liga

As the season enters its closing stages the situation at the bottom of the table is enthralling. The gap between those above and in the relegation zone is minimal – four points the difference between 16th placed Almeria on 32 points and 19th placed Granada on 28 points, with Deportivo La Coruna in the last relegation spot above the Los Carmenes-based side on 30 points and Eibar in 17th on 31 points. These four clubs have differing stories of how they came to be in this position.

Granada’s season has been harrowing. By mid-January the Andalusian outfit were bottom, as they won only two League games, scoring just 11 goals – the lowest in the division at that time. A winless run of 14 games led to Coach Joaquin Caparros being sacked in that month. 

Abel Resino, who replaced Caparros, fared little better, winning just two out of 15 League games. On the May 1 Resino was sacked with Granada six points from safety. However, new Coach Jose Ramon Sandoval has given El Grana hope in his first match. A brace from striker Youssef El-Arabi gave them a priceless 2-1 win at Getafe.  

Granada’s remaining three fixtures indicate there’s a chance of avoiding relegation. Their next game is home to already-relegated Cordoba, who have only pride left to fight for. On Week 37 they visit San Sebastian to face Real Sociedad, with whom they drew 1-1 in early January under Caparros. Finally, Granada’s season ends with a home game against Atletico Madrid, where a result is needed to avoid relegation. It is tough but doable.

As for Deportivo, their misfortune is inconsistency. The Galicians have managed to achieve notable results, such as their memorable 3-0 win against Valencia back in October. On the other hand their form has been mediocre at times – they are currently winless in 13 League games, six of them draws, two of which were goalless. In the four score draws Deportivo had to fight from losing positions, which does show resilience. But what counts against them is their fixtures.

Saturday’s trip to face Athletic Bilbao at Estadio San Mames is never easy but their penultimate clash against Levante at home is vital. Beating Levante is so important because Deportivo’s final game is away to Barcelona who have aspirations of winning the League. Stop their winless run and safety will be achieved.

Eibar’s debut season in La Liga has been anything but dull. By the end of 2014 Los Armeros rode high at the top half of the table. Since then, it has gone downhill, winning just three League matches in 2015 – two of those wins back in January. Currently the Basque outfit are winless in six games. 

Coach Gaizka Garitano’s main objective at the start of the season was survival and they are in a fight to achieve that. But Griday’s 2-0 home defeat to Espanyol means they only have two games remaining. On Week 37 Eibar travel to Getafe but their final game of the season is home to relegated Cordoba. Victory could extend their historic stay in La Liga.

As for 16th placed Almeria, they may appear to be in the safest position out of the four teams, but that isn’t really the case. They could be deducted three points, as a result of signing Esbjerg defender Michael Jakobsen in 2011, with the Danish club saying Almeria owe €50,000-€60,000 in royalties. 

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will make their final ruling on May 20. If Almeria are deducted points they are sucked into the relegation zone. Their next fixture is Malaga at home but their final two fixtures are tough – Sevilla away and Valencia at home. La Union will hope CAS rules the Jakobsen case in their favour.

What makes this relegation race important than in recent years is the new TV rights deal being implemented this summer – strike depending. For the first time it's done collectively and those teams at the bottom half of the table will get more money than before.But two of those four teams will join Cordoba in Segunda, missing out big time.