Zaragoza plays Espanyol in crucial game in Spain

Zaragoza plays Espanyol in crucial game in Spain

Published May. 12, 2011 2:28 p.m. ET

With Barcelona having already won the title, attention in the Spanish league turns to the other end of the standings where relegation-threatened Zaragoza takes on an Espanyol team still in the hunt for a Europa League spot.

The financially troubled Zaragoza is on the brink of joining the relegated Almeria and Hercules in the second division by being demoted for the third time in 10 seasons after back-to-back losses.

"We have to pick ourselves up and beat Espanyol. The worst part is that we depend on other results to stay up, but our job is to try and win the six points in play," Zaragoza coach Javier Aguirre said ahead of the next-to-last round.

After a poor start to the season, Zaragoza has won seven of its past 10 games at La Romareda stadium.


"In these last six or seven dogfight games we have had, the details have made the difference," said Aguirre, a former Mexico manager.

Espanyol has lost six of its past seven away matches, a run the team will have to end if it wants to keep alive its chances of playing in Europe next season.

Teams finishing fifth, sixth and seventh in Spain this season will qualify for the Europa League. Espanyol is eighth, three points behind No. 6 Sevilla and No. 7 Atletico Madrid.

"We depend on winning everything," Espanyol defender Javi Chica said. "We will work until the very end for our European dream."

Getafe, meanwhile, is one point above Zaragoza and needs to win at home against Osasuna in the Spanish capital.

The trouble for Getafe is that Osasuna has been fighting hard recently, coming from behind to win in its past two games. A fourth straight win for Osasuna would ensure its safety.

After a horrendous second half of the season, Getafe has won its past two home games. But the team must quickly rebound from a 4-0 thrashing by Real Madrid on Tuesday.

"We have the quality to beat Osasuna," Getafe coach Michel Gonzalez said. "Now we have to spend all our energies on Sunday's game."

Barcelona will celebrate its third straight league title when it receives the trophy at Camp Nou stadium before playing Deportivo La Coruna, which is only three points above the drop zone.

While Madrid is condemned to be runner-up for the third straight season to its fierce rivals, forward Cristiano Ronaldo's quest to become the top scorer in the history of the Spanish league will draw attention to its game at Villarreal.

Ronaldo has scored seven goals in the past two matches to bring his season total to 36, five more than Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and only two from equaling the record set by Telmo Zarra (1950-51) and Hugo Sanchez (1989-90).

"I am fighting to reach an important record," Ronaldo said.

As its title hopes faded in recent weeks, Madrid has focused on making sure Ronaldo has enough scoring chances. More of the same can be expected at El Madrigal stadium.

"It is true that on occasions my teammates have looked for me so I can score more, but the collective is above the individual," Ronaldo said.

Villarreal still has a shot at catching third-place Valencia if their provincial rival slip up at Levante.

All games in the next-to-last round will be played at the same time on Sunday.

Also in the 37th round, it's: Sporting Gijon vs. Racing Santander; Athletic Bilbao vs. Malaga; Atletico Madrid vs. Hercules; and Sevilla vs. Real Sociedad.