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Saturday May 18 2013
Beware the black hole

As the season’s relegation battle approaches its climax, Richard Martin analyses the chances of each team hoping to stay in La Liga.

Time is running out for the six teams still scrapping to avoid relegation to the Segunda Division A. There are no parachute payments in Spain, meaning relegated sides often struggle to get promoted back to the top flight, while others slip into Segunda B shortly afterwards, as happened to Tenerife and looks set to happen to Racing Santander and Xerez. As a result, some in the media have compared the Segunda A to a black hole. Here is the lowdown on the teams trying to avoid falling into it.

Mallorca - 20th, 29 points

Despite a promising start to the season that had many people tipping them to qualify for Europe, the Islanders soon started sliding down the table at an alarming rate, causing Joaquin Caparros to lose his job. Gregorio Manzano won seven points from his first five games back in charge, but this positive start soon gave way to a grim reality. Getting thrashed by Barcelona and Real Madrid was understandable, but losing to Deportivo and Zaragoza and drawing with Rayo Vallecano and Levante at home was not.  Mallorca are now five points from safety and could be relegated by the end of Week 36 should they fail to overcome Real Betis and Zaragoza beat Athletic Bilbao.

Celta - 19th, 31 points

Managerial changes do not always appear logical, but Abel Resino being drafted in to replace Paco Herrera in mid-February made some sense, given Celta's drop in form. They needed the boost that so often comes with a new Coach, 'new manager syndrome' as the cliché goes. The problem was that this syndrome lasted just a week, and a win over Granada in Resino’s first game was followed by a run of just one point in six games. They are now three points from safety, having played one game more than their rivals, who must slip up if Celta are to stand a chance of survival.

Deportivo - 18th, 32 points

“It's all about who has the best sprint finish,” said Fernando Vazquez after Deportivo beat Mallorca to pull off consecutive wins for the first time this season. He followed those comments up by leading his team to two further wins, over Zaragoza and that controversial game in Levante. But rather than sprint to the finish line, Depor slowed down, drawing three in a row, followed by a defeat at Valladolid, and are back where they started, in the relegation zone. Wins in their next two games against Espanyol and Malaga are vital if they are to get out of the danger zone again.

Zaragoza  - 17th, 34 points

‘Year after year, Zaragoza stay up thanks to bribes’, read a banner at Deportivo’s training  ground earlier this week. Some might argue that, given recent events, the Galicians should keep their mouths shut, but there is something remarkable about Zaragoza's ability to scramble their way out of trouble. Last season they strung together six wins from their last seven games of the season to stay up, and they recently ended a period of four months without a win by stringing together two victories and a draw to lift them two points above Depor, their biggest threat to survival left.

Granada - 16th, 36 points

Lucas Alcaraz returned to the club he left 20 years ago to help them avoid the drop and wins over Real Madrid and Deportivo in his first two games back suggested the plan was working. They then slipped back into the relegation zone after losing 5-1 and 5-0 to Betis and Atletico Madrid respectively, prompting the Coach to take his team away to a training camp in Marbella. They haven't lost since returning, and have pulled four points clear of the drop zone. A win over Osasuna at home this weekend is a must, with a difficult trip to Champions League hopefuls Valencia to follow.

Osasuna - 15th, 36 points

A Pamplona radio station announced in late September that if Osasuna didn't beat Levante then Jose Luis Mendilibar would be sacked and replaced by Jose Ramon Sandoval. The Navarrans won 4-0, and Sandoval was kept waiting. The results have not improved markedly since that day, but Osasuna plodded along, their strong home form compensating for some dire away results. After seeing his side beaten at El Sadar last weekend, Getafe boss Luis Garcia remarked: “It's impossible for them to go down if they play like this at home.” The trouble for Osasuna is that two of their remaining three games are away, but they are still favourites to stay up.

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