Real Sociedad will have to recover quickly from the news that their coach Philippe Montanier will leave to join Stade Rennais at the end of the season as they face Real Madrid in a crucial match in their quest to claim the fourth and final UEFA Champions League place in La Liga.
Montanier has decided to bring his time in San Sebastian to an end after two seasons, despite the guarantee of European soccer next season, with his side currently ahead of Valencia thanks to a better head-to-head record with just two games to go.
However, striker Imanol Agirretxe believes they are capable of putting the Frenchman’s decision to the back of their minds and concentrating on tomorrow’s game.
“The dressing room is calm, we are in a very important moment. The coach is conscious of just how important it is and he has asked us to be calm,” Agirretxe said on Thursday. “Right now we are concentrating on the game against Real Madrid with great desire and excitement. It will be the last game at the Anoeta this season. We are playing for a lot and, moreover, against Real Madrid, so I think the excitement for this game is above any personal situation we have as a manager or a player.”
Real Madrid are also adjusting to the news that they will have a managerial change at the end of the season after it was officially confirmed on Monday that Jose Mourinho will depart the Spanish capital come the end of the campaign.
Already guaranteed to finish second, Madrid having nothing to play for, but Agirretxe is not buying talk that they will be demotivated.
“They are not playing for anything, but at the end of the day they know how to play very well. Real Madrid are Real Madrid, I have never seen them relaxed or taking a game easy, and in this sense it will be a very difficult game.”
Mourinho will at least be able to manage his penultimate game in charge from the technical area as his two-game ban for being sent off during Real’s defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey final last Friday only applies to domestic cup fixtures.
Cristiano Ronaldo is also free to play as he too received a two-game cup ban for his red card against Atletico, but their opponents will be without their top-scorer Carlos Vela due to suspension.
Meanwhile, champions Barcelona continue their quest to match Real Madrid’s record tally of 100 points from last season when they visit RCD Espanyol in the Catalan derby.
The rivalry between the two sets of fans has already been demonstrated in the buildup to the game, with Espanyol supporters saying they will turn their backs when their players salute Barca with a guard of honor.
Elsewhere, Valencia go in search of their fourth win in a row to keep the pressure on Real Sociedad when they host Granada, who are not yet mathematically safe, at the Estadio Mestalla.
With all 10 games taking place at 7pm tomorrow night, the first victims of relegation could also be confirmed as RC Celta de Vigo need to win at Real Valladolid to have any chance of saving themselves.
RCD Mallorca will also be relegated if they fail to avoid defeat at Copa del Rey winners Atletico and, even if they do so, the Islanders will still go down should RC Deportivo de La Coruna match their result away to Malaga.
There will be an emotional farewell to Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames as, after 100 years, it hosts its final competitive game when Los Leones host Levante UD.
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