Relegation looms large for free-falling Zaragoza

April 10, 2008

MADRID, April 10 (Reuters) - Real Zaragoza are a team built to push for a Champions League place, but their slide down the Primera Liga standings could leave them in the second division.

They travel to Getafe on Sunday in 18th place, three points short of safety, with seven games left to play. Zaragoza's away form is the second worst in the league and they have suffered seven defeats in their last nine outings.

'The players are down and we need to lift them. We have to transmit a fighting spirit that we can do this,' club President Eduardo Bandres said.

'We are still in the top flight and will continue to fight to stay here.'

After finishing sixth last year, they are on their fourth coach of the current campaign and were barracked by their own fans after last weekend's 3-0 home defeat to rivals Real Betis put them in the bottom three.

Zaragoza's woes are in a stark contrast to the situation at modest Getafe, who play Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup quarter-final second leg on Thursday. They take on Valencia in their second consecutive King's Cup final next week.

The team Zaragoza are trying to overhaul are 17th-placed Recreativo Huelva, who host title-chasing Barcelona on Saturday.

The Catalans' hopes of catching leaders Real Madrid have faded in recent weeks as they have only managed one win in their last six league matches.

They have slipped back to third, level on 59 points with Villarreal, who have the edge ini head-to-head meetings.

Barca qualified for the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday, but tension between the club and its fans over the side's stuttering form continue to dominate the headlines.

Villarreal's nine-game unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-0 defeat at Sevilla last weekend, and they visit Almeria on Sunday.

Leaders Real have a seven-point cushion as they close on their 31st league title and host relegation-threatened Real Murcia on Sunday.

Murcia are seven points from safety in 19th-place and have never won at the Bernabeu, but their well-travelled coach Javier Clemente has already sought to spice up the match.

'I have always gone there with modest teams and they always have a go at me saying I simply park a bus in front of the goal,' the former Spain and Real coach said.

'I'm not going to listen to my critics and suddenly play an open game, which is what they want me to do.

'We are going to put a bus and a train in front of the goal and do what we can to stop them scoring.'