Sat, May 17, 2008 - Page 18 News List

LFP: Final UEFA Cup spot to be decided on Spain's final day

AFP , MADRID

A thrilling final weekend of the Spanish soccer season is in store, with four teams fighting relegation and two vying for the final UEFA Cup spot.

Incredibly, all six sides are in action against each other in three high-stake matches tomorrow evening.

Real Mallorca have won five consecutive matches to mount a late charge for a UEFA Cup place lying just a point behind Racing Santander. Spanish international forward Daniel Guiza has been a major factor behind their push, taking his season’s tally to 26 goals and he leads the goalscoring charts.

Mallorca host Real Zaragoza tomorrow hoping to better Racing’s result and sneak into Europe, but Zaragoza lie third from bottom in the standings and need to win and hope other results go their way to stay in the top-flight. Zaragoza’s plight is surprising when you consider they finished sixth last season and were even talking of Champions League soccer in pre-season.

Osasuna are a point above Zaragoza, but face a tricky trip to a Racing team desperately trying to cling on to the final UEFA Cup berth. Recreativo Huelva are level on points with Osasuna and entertain Valladolid who are only two points from the drop in a nerve-jangling relegation dogfight.

Elsewhere Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard takes charge of Barcelona for the last time in today’s trip to relegated Real Murcia, with reserve team coach Pep Guardiola taking over in the summer. Rijkaard will not be the only departure from Camp Nou, with Portuguese midfielder Deco and Cameroon forward Samuel Eto’o confirming that they want to leave the club.

“Apart from being a great coach he is a great person,” Deco said of Rijkaard. “Personally I don’t want to be somewhere where I am not wanted. My affection for Barca will never change and I hope the club prospers because it deserves to.”

Brazilian star Ronaldinho, who last played at the beginning of March, is also certain to leave under a dark cloud after his partying antics appeared to take priority over soccer. Barca lost 3-2 against Mallorca after leading 2-0 last weekend and can now surrender third to Atletico Madrid who are level on points.

After sealing a Champions League place for the first time in 12 years, Atletico Madrid can go for third when they face Valencia tomorrow.

Valencia have qualified for Europe by lifting the Kings Cup, but are likely to lose Spanish star David Villa in the summer. Sevilla are also in the UEFA Cup, but are struggling to hang on to stars Seydou Keita, Daniel Alves and Luis Fabiano.

Fabiano will be fired up for tomorrow’s home match against Athletic Bilbao as he tries to add to his 24 goals and overtake Guiza in the race for the Pichichi crown.

Champions Real Madrid round off their season with a home match against relegated Levante tomorrow. Real are already thinking of next season and Dutch international Wesley Sneijder believes the team are capable of pushing on and winning a Champions League and league double next season.

“It has been a great season and next season we can win the league again and the Champions League,” Sneijder said.

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