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THE RELEGATION RACE: who's going down? Part II: the pretenders

Part I profiled the three clubs in the current drop zone, but there are others just above who could fall back into the danger area. Here they are.

Keep the faith, Gaizka!!
Keep the faith, Gaizka!!
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

As a reminder of the point situation:

Eibar 28

Levante 28

Elche 27

Depor 26

Almeria 25  (NB: they could lose 3 of these points due to a FIFA ruling, currently being appealed)

Granada 23

Cordoba 18

Having already profiled the bottom three, let's look at the four sitting just above them.

Deportivo La Coruña-- Not Super Depor, at best Relatively-Bad Depor, this year's outfit has Helder Postiga among their strikers. That might be all you need to know.  They do have some loanees who aren't bad: Oriol Riera, Lucas Perez up front, Isaac Cuenca and Ivan Cavaleiro in midfield.  But do they have enough to make it though and pick up enough points?

Form: Two wins and five losses in last seven, including a loss in a theoretically winnable match yesterday against Getafe.  Not good.

Prospects:  The match against Cordoba in the Riazor on Wednesday is a must-win, and probably they will, but then five of the remaining eight matches are away, and of those only Elche looks like a chance to pick up points. The home games are against Atleti, Villarreal, and Levante, so aren't easy either.  If they stay up, it will probably be due to the ineptitude of those below them, rather than anything they've really done.

Players we could be interested in: A lot of these guys are loanees and those that aren't don't impress me.  So, none.

Personal reaction: To be honest, meh.  Celta is my Galician team.  Hey, has the Depor presi paid all those catering bills yet?

Elche-- Ah, Elche.  The sounds of the palm fronds waving in the breeze...and the knees of 35-year old defenders Edu Albacar and Sergio Pelegrin creaking as they unsuccessfully try to break up another attack.  Only Levante have given up more goals: 52 in 28 matches.  And with only 23 at the other end, that's not a recipe for survival.

Besides, Elche seem to be persona non grata at the moment, excluded from recent LFP meetings because they're bankrupt.  I can just see these guys barely scraping through, and Javier Tebas orchestrating some sort of administrative relegation because he doesn't like the "Have a Nice Day" on their shirts (yeah, it's really there, it's the slogan of their main sponsor, a shoe company).

Form:  Elche seem to have developed a good gig: roll over against good teams (4-0 Valencia, 3-0 Sevilla, 5-0 Barcelona) but defeat the Eibars, Levantes and Almerias of the world 1-0.  Hey, it's great if you can keep doing it.  Just roll over against us in a few weeks, OK?

Prospects:  More than anyone, these guys control their own destiny.  Espanyol, Getafe and Cordoba the next three rounds, plus Depor and (the last match of the season)  Levante away.  Fran Escribá is a good coach, and the path to 40 points or so seems relatively straightforward.  But there's still Tebas to deal with.

Players we could be interested in: Garry Rodrigues, Cape Verde international with speed to burn.  Plays on the right of the 4-2-3-1.  As for the 1, Jonathas is on loan from Pescara for two seasons, but I suppose if Elche were relegated the deal could expire.

Personal reaction: Sid loved the Elche fans he met a couple of years ago, and we have had some cracking matches against these guys.  It's a rivalry I'd love to see grow, so I definitely hope they stay up.

Eibar-- The little-Basque team-that could, feel-good story has taken a turn for the worse of late.  Eibar had a dream start to the season, with 26 points in the first 18 matches, hanging just below the European spots.   But the departure of Raul Albentosa for Derby County in January seems to have precipitated an armeros collapse.  Last year's hero, Coach Gaizka Garitano, is under fire, but the fate of this club might not be written until the end of the season, with matches at home against Espanyol and Cordoba sandwiched around a visit to Getafe.

Form: Terrible.  Four goals in 11 matches, two draws and nine losses in the last 11.  What's the Basque for "yuck"?

Prospects: A win against Malaga Tuesday would sure be good, wouldn't it?  Both for Eibar and us.  Seriously, they need a win soon so the coach can keep his job.  I think if he gets the push, they're going down for sure.

Players we might be interested in: These guys are grafters.  Pluggers.  Blue-collar guys.  To be honest, most all of them came up with Eibar, and they'll go back down with them if relegation happens.  Albentosa was their best talent, and he's gone.

Personal reaction: This is my kind of guy--a coach who holds a press conference dressed like this.  Aupa Eibar!!

Levante-- Ah, the froggies.  Gotta be feeling pretty good after the Almeria demolition on the weekend.  The next two weeks (Sevilla and Valencia) are probably losses, but beyond that, Espanyol, Getafe, Cordoba look like possible wins.  And unlike virtually everyone else in the bottom group, they've come up with big wins against fellow strugglers when they needed to--first vs. Granada, now Almeria.   This team is definitely better than many others below them, with a nucleus of useful players.  David Barral has come alive to spearhead their attack.  Being the second team in Valencia can't be easy (especially when you were actually founded 10 years before the big club)  but Levante has managed to putter along quite nicely in the Primera, and a sixth consecutive season for them is almost--but not quite--assured.

Form: Two wins in the last five!  Four in the last eight!  The granotes are en fuego!!  Hmm..grilled frog legs....

Prospects: Probably pretty good, since they have a three point lead over Almeria, two teams between them, and a reasonably easy path to survival.  But the defense--53 goals given up--remains a worry.

Players we might be interested in:  A lot of their guys have turned 30; it's just not a roster with a lot of upside, though I'd certainly take Barral if he became available.  Midfielders Ruben Garcia (21) and Victor Camarasa (20) came up in the Levante system, so might get loaned out if they go down.El Zhar? Diop? Simao?  Can't get excited about them either.  Besides, I really do think these guys will stay up.

Personal reaction:  When Alisa and I arrived in Valencia, our taxi got stuck in traffic next to the Levante team bus.  I'm not sure what that means.

Which of these teams would you like to see survive?  And which do you think will?? Comment below!!