REAL MADRID HOST third-placed Valencia at the Bernabeu tomorrow in a match that could decide Unai Emery’s future.
The Valencia boss has been the subject of much debate following a run of only three wins in 14 league games and despite guiding his side to the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday, one of three Spanish sides to do so, Emery could well be on the way out with his contract set to expire.
“I am used to the speculation over my future. I continue with my work and take no notice of it, and I don’t see the players affected by it either,” Emery said.
And with the Real Madrid juggernaut showing no signs of abating, in La Liga or the Champions League, in which they advanced to the semi-finals with a 7-2 aggregate win over Cypriot minnows APOEL, Valencia may yet be looking even closer over their shoulders. Jose Mourinho’s Real remain six points clear of reigning champions Barcelona after they also booked their place in the corresponding Champions League semi-final.
Kaka, who scored a spectacular goal against APOEL admitted Real Madrid’s focus was now firmly on La Liga, not their upcoming tie with Bayern Munich.
“We must only think about our game against Valencia, that’s our most important match right now because we have a six-point lead over Barcelona in the league and we want to keep it that way,” Kaka said. Barcelona knows any slip-up will all but ensure Real Madrid claim their first title in four years with only eight matches to play.
Barcelona travel to relegation-threatened Zaragoza tonight after Lionel Messi’s two penalties helped them knock AC Milan out of the Champions League on Tuesday.
And though it might look an easy three points on paper, cashed-strapped Zaragoza have mounted a spirited surge of late, picking up 13 of a possible 18 points and claiming scalps Villarral, Valencia and Atletico Madrid along the way. Rock-bottom Sporting Gijon are three points worse off after their 2-1 loss to Zaragoza last weekend and face an important trip to Getafe on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Racing Santander (19th) remain level on points with Sporting and could seal their fate with a loss at Malaga on Monday, with both still seven points from safety. Saturday’s other action pits Villarreal away to Real Betis, Osasuna travel to Rayo Vallecano and Espanyol entertain Real Sociedad at home.
On Sunday, two other sides to earn a Europa League semi-final berth in the week – Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao – are in action. Marcelo Bielsa’s Bilbao knocked out Schalke 6-4 after the German side had twice led in the second leg in Spain to set up a showdown with Sporting Lisbon, but will have to attend to Sevilla first, in La Liga.