Espanyol faces crunch game at Valencia to avoid relegation from Spanish league


After the anticlimactic conclusion of Barcelona's title march, the Spanish league's more modest teams are delivering some drama to the season's final days.

Seven teams — Espanyol, Valladolid, Cadiz, Getafe, Almeria, Celta Vigo and Valencia — are all fighting to avoid joining last-place Elche in the second division next season. Espanyol and Valladolid are in the danger zone with two games left.

All the games for the penultimate round will be played at the same time on Sunday, except for Real Madrid's trip to Sevilla on Saturday.

Espanyol is facing a crunch game when it visits Valencia. The Barcelona-based team is in second-to-last place and three points behind Valladolid, Cadiz and Getafe. If Espanyol loses at Valencia, and the other three at least draw, the team will be demoted.

Espanyol, however, is playing some of its best soccer of the season, winning 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano and erasing a three-goal deficit to earn a thrilling 3-3 draw with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

"What a rollercoaster of emotions, but I am convinced that we will save ourselves," Espanyol coach Luis García said after the comeback against Atletico. "My team is very much alive."

A section of Mestalla Stadium will be closed as a sanction imposed by the Spanish soccer federation for the racist slurs targeted at Real Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior.

"Sunday's game is a final for us," Valencia coach Rubén Baraja said after Mallorca beat his team 1-0 on Thursday.

Valladolid, in 18th, also faces a key game at Almeria, which is only one point ahead in 15th place.

Valladolid is flying high after Tuesday's 3-1 win over champion Barcelona, which had nothing to play for.

Cadiz, in 17th, hosts 14th-place Celta in a another clash between teams near the bottom. Celta is only two points ahead of Cadiz and has been on the slide after only one win in its last 10 games.

Getafe, in 16th, welcomes Osasuna without leading scorer Enes Unal, who injured his leg in his team's 1-0 win at Real Betis on Wednesday.

Closer to the top of the standings, Real Sociedad can clinch fourth place and Spain's last Champions League spot when it visits third-place Atletico.

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