Valencia slip further away from salvation
© AFP

With spiralling debts Valencia are desperate to get into the lucrative UEFA Champions League, but a 2-1 defeat to relegation strugglers Numancia leaves the troubled club six points off the top four. It was a ninth defeat of the season for Valencia, who continue to be poor travelers, failing to win away from home since the beginning of November. It is public knowledge that Valencia have been unable to pay their players on time due to acute financial problems and after a great start their league form has dipped and they are not even in the European spots after falling to seventh.

Deportivo La Coruna took advantage of their slip with a 5-3 win over Racing Santander to climb to fifth, three points behind Villarreal. Valencia had to do without 19-goal top-scorer David Villa due to a knee injury, but were favourites against a team that propped up the table before kick-off.

Winger Vicente put Valencia in front after just nine minutes, but Numancia replied through Carlos Aranda shortly before half-time. A Jose Bakero free-kick just after the break then put Numancia ahead and they held on for a first win in two months. Numancia move off the bottom at the expense of Espanyol and closed in on third from bottom Osasuna, who lost 2-1 against Sporting Gijon.

Real Madrid are a full ten points ahead, but catching Barcelona is their priority and the champions dropped two valuable points in a 1-1 derby draw with Atletico Madrid on 7 March. Real fell six points behind Barca and now switch their attention to Tuesday's UEFA Champions League duel with Liverpool at Anfield, where they need to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit. Veteran defender Michel Salgado won at Anfield as a Celta Vigo player in a 1998/1999 last 16 UEFA Cup match and said there was no reason why Real could not win at Anfield.

"Anfield's atmosphere makes you do your best, which is why I've been saying it's possible to win there, especially if you are Real Madrid," explained Salgado.

After three league games without a win, Barcelona defeated fellow Kings Cup finalists Bilbao 2-0 on 7 March to extend their lead over Real by two points. The leaders face Lyon in their UEFA Champions League match at Camp Nou on Wednesday with the tie evenly-poised at 1-1.

"Wednesday's game is a simple knock-out game - there are no second chances," said midfielder Sergi Busquets. "We'll be studying Lyon before the match and if we put in the work we've got a good chance."