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Wednesday February 27 2019
Can Alaves hold onto European spot?

Alaves have been one of the unexpected high-fliers of this La Liga season, but Kieran Thomas questions if they can hold onto an unlikely European spot.

This season’s La Liga is the gift that keeps giving with more twists and turns than a cheap garden hose. And one side who have enjoyed riding the wave is Deportivo Alaves, who are starring at the possibility of playing in Europe next season directly in the face. The race for a top four place or a spot in the top six still have the Basque side in the equation.

Surprisingly, given their recent history, there is a sense of stability and calm around the Mendizorrotza. This is the same club who had gone through five Coaches between the period of July 2017 and July 2018. But it appears club president ‎Alfonso Fernandez has found the man who will take them forward long-term, employing former centre back Abelardo Fernandez who featured for the club in the 2002/03 season.

One of the candidates for Coach of the season, Abelardo took over at the Basque club in December 2017 and helped guide them to a 14th-place finish. Winning ten league games from his 23 in charge at the second part of last season was hugely impressive and the 48-year-old has built upon that this season.

Three wins from their opening five league games this season saw them rubbing shoulders at La Liga’s top table, and have since gone on to find themselves in several positions when they could have gone top, failing to do so on each occasion. But that hasn’t damaged their spirit as the season has progressed.

Big victories over the likes of Real Madrid and Valencia has shown they can compete and that’s exactly what the Vitoria-Gasteiz side are going to have to do going forward. But could it all fall apart as the season draws to a close?

The competition around them is fierce and cut-throat. A total of seven teams consider themselves still in contention for that fourth Champions League place, currently occupied by Getafe. Just six points separate Los Azulones in fourth and Athletic Club as low down as tenth – it’s all still to play for.

Sevilla, Real Betis, Real Sociedad, Valencia and Athletic Club will all fancy themselves and with Abelardo’s men still to play Valencia, Sociedad, Bilbao and Sevilla it makes for a very tasty European race.

Despite their exploits so far this season, the European bubble could be about to burst as recent form has threatened to slow them down. Just three wins in their last ten La Liga games is far from ideal, and back-to-back draws has taken them out of the Champions League picture for now. Despite this, they remain just two points from Getafe who next face Real Betis, another side trying to break into the top four.  

Abelardo’s side however will see their clash with relegation-threatened Villarreal as a chance to get back to winning ways. The Yellow Submarine’s shock 3-0 triumph over Sevilla just over a week ago could make it a difficult encounter.

But if Alavés are going to capitalise on this rare opportunity to break into the Champions League they need to pull their finger out and prove they deserve to be there by finishing as strong as possible and wiping out any competition they face along the way.

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