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Saturday March 12 2016
Las Palmas finally come to life

After struggling in the relegation zone for much of the season, Las Palmas are finally producing the goods and, on the back of three straight wins, are well placed to stay up, writes Edin Halilovic.

Las Palmas may have been mostly out of the spotlight ever since their club-record, 19-year stay in La Liga ended in 1983, but that’s never hurt the club’s dreams of becoming regulars in the top flight again. They returned twice since then but went back down each time after three and two seasons respectively.

They managed to return again for a third time last summer after a 13-year absence with a squad made up of domestic players, home-grown products, and foreign journeymen. It was a Barcelona-born manager named Paco Herrera, once part of Rafa Benitez’s backroom staff at Liverpool, who brought them back up in his first season at the helm.

Jubilant scenes followed their promotion after a dramatic playoff win against Real Zaragoza on away goals last June, with Herrera taking plenty of praise and credit for the achievement. He had managed to take a team that had twice come close to the promotion playoffs in previous seasons past the final hurdle and many were grateful to his work when promotion was finally achieved.

The adulation didn’t last for long, however, as Herrera was sacked just eight games into Las Palmas’ La Liga return, with just one win to start the campaign. In came Quique Setien, who got the job on the back of a very good half-decade’s work at Lugo.

Las Palmas somewhat improved under Setien but were still largely inconsistent and remained in the bottom three. Despite showing flashes of quality, they looked out of their depth at times and destined to go straight back down after just one year. Until recently, that is.

Their fortunes have changed drastically in just a space of three weeks. Since a spirited performance saw them earn national praise in an unlucky reverse to champions Barcelona, the islanders have embarked on a three-game winning streak. Before this run, they had not even strung together two straight wins, but it’s three and counting now for the Gran Canaria club

A 4-0 drubbing of Getafe which saw them exact revenge over the team who beat them by the same scoreline last October, the match which incidentally got Herrera the boot, started the run. Surprise away wins followed at Eibar and Villarreal, signalling an unlikely revival in their bid to stay up. They’ve also managed to keep three straight clean sheets, which is another statistic they didn’t manage to repeat once before this run during the campaign.

As they prepare to host Real Madrid on Sunday, Las Palmas are four points clear of the danger zone and playing with confidence again at long last. Should they maintain the level they’ve been at over the past few weeks, ensuring safety shouldn’t be an issue for them.

The last time Madrid played a League fixture away to Las Palmas, the latter prevailed 4-2 in October 2001. It’s unlikely that such a result will be repeated this weekend, but considering Los Blancos’ away struggles and Las Palmas’ rise in form, it isn’t an impossible outcome, and a result here will surely skyrocket their already-high confidence off the charts to put them well on the way to remaining in La Liga for another season.

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