Madrid: Real Madrid — held to a 0-0 draw by Getafe in La Liga on Thursday night — are in real danger of finishing outside of the top two in consecutive seasons for the first time in 45 years.
The draw dropped Zinedine Zidane’s team six points behind second-place Atletico Madrid, who defeated Valencia 3-2 on Wednesday to keep alive their slim hopes of catching Barcelona at the top.
Barcelona can clinch their second consecutive title — and eighth in 11 seasons — with a home win at relegation-threatened Levante on Saturday.
Real Madrid have four games left to try to surpass Atletico and avoid their second straight third-place finish in the league. They haven’t finished outside the top two in consecutive seasons since 1973-74.
Real Madrid are yet to win an away match since Zidane returned as coach, with a loss against Valencia and draws against Leganes and Getafe. They have won all four matches at home under the former France great.
Both teams created some significant scoring chances throughout the match but were unable to capitalise.
“We deserved more, we had chances to score,” Zidane said. “I’m upset with the result.”
The draw allowed Getafe, the biggest surprise of the season, to reclaim fourth place, the final qualification spot for the Champions League. The team from southern Madrid are unbeaten in five straight matches.
“We gained a point and we are still in the fight for fourth place,” Getafe defender Damian Suarez said. “We have to keep doing what we have been doing so far.”
While La Liga has only four complete rounds remaining, some coaches may not make it to the end.
Real Betis manager Quique Setien and Girona’s Eusebio Sacristan are under mounting pressure after losing streaks, while Alaves coach Abelardo Fernandez has had a falling out with his club owner over his future.
Betis are not in danger of relegation, but they are finishing the season so poorly that Setien feels heat though he says he doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Betis have won just one of their last seven Liga matches, including a 3-2 defeat to fierce city rival Sevilla in an always hotly disputed derby.
“It is not for me to say, but I’m convinced that I will stay on,” Setien said after his side’s worst loss of the season, by 4-0 at Levante.
“It is true that the club is in a difficult situation because we are under a lot of pressure. ... We would all like for things to have gone better. Sometimes the club’s plan and the expectations that are created are not met. (But) I would be surprised if they fire me this week.”
Sacristan is in similar trouble at Girona.
The former Barcelona player had Girona playing well through the first half of the season. The Catalan club, which is partly owned by Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi ownership, lost only five of their first 19 league matches.
But since then they have fallen in 11 of 15 games, including six straight defeats which have plunged them into the drop zone.
The case of Abelardo at Alaves is not about performance. Instead, the manager and club seem set to part ways over money.
Abelardo saved Alaves’ season last year, when he rescued them from relegation. He kept the modest northern team winning again in this campaign, and they even flirted with the top four spots before faltering recently. Alaves owner Josean Querejeta said this week that Abelardo rejected an offer to renew his contract for next season. Querejeta told Onda Cero radio his coach wanted “to double his salary”, so the club are looking for a replacement.
Eight of the competition’s 20 clubs have already changed coaches this season, including Real, who went through Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari before Zidane agreed to return to the job he left at the end of last season and pilot a rebuilding project.
La Liga Fixtures
Athletic v Deportivo (3pm), Atletico v Real Valladolid (6.15pm), Leganes v Celta Vigo (8.30pm), Barcelona v Levante (10.45pm)
Valencia v Eibar (2pm), Girona v Sevilla (4pm), Real Sociedad v Getafe (6.15pm)
Villarreal v Huesca (8.30pm)
Rayo Vallecano v Real Madrid (10.45pm)
Real Betis v Espanyol (11pm)