Coaches in Spain under pressure as Liga nears finish

JOSEPH WILSON
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FILE _ In this Wednesday, March 1, 2017 file photo, Las Palmas coach Quique Setien waits for the start of a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Las Palmas at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain. The Spanish league only has four games remaining, but there are some coaches who may not make it that far. Real Betis manager Quique Setien and Girona’s Eusebio Sacristan are under pressure after losing streaks, while Alaves coach Abelardo Fernandez has had a falling out with his club over his future. (AP Photo/Paul White, File)

FILE _ In this Wednesday, March 1, 2017 file photo, Las Palmas coach Quique Setien waits for the start of a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Las Palmas at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain. The Spanish league only has four games remaining, but there are some coaches who may not make it that far. Real Betis manager Quique Setien and Girona’s Eusebio Sacristan are under pressure after losing streaks, while Alaves coach Abelardo Fernandez has had a falling out with his club over his future. (AP Photo/Paul White, File)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Spanish league has only four complete rounds remaining, and some coaches may not make it to the end.

Real Betis manager Quique Setién and Girona's Eusebio Sacristan are under mounting pressure after losing streaks, while Alaves coach Abelardo Fernández has had a falling out with his club owner over his future.

Betis is not in danger of relegation, but it is finishing the season so poorly that Setien feels heat though he says he doesn't feel uncomfortable. Betis has won just one of its 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," Setién said on Wednesday 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."

Setién has divided Betis' fans ever since his arrival two years ago, between those who love his attacking football and those who complain that he leaves his defense far too exposed. Betis has earned some good victories — its thrilling 4-3 win at Barcelona in November was the leader's last loss in the competition— but it has also endured painful losses.

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 its first 19 league matches.

But since then it has fallen in 11 of 15 games, including six straight defeats which have plunged it into the drop zone.

Girona sports director Quique Carcel said after Tuesday's 1-0 loss at Valladolid that the club will stick with Sacristan.

"We have four matches left and we have to treat them as if they were four finals," Carcel said.

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 it from finishing near the bottom. He kept the modest northern team winning again in this campaign, and it even flirted with the top four spots before faltering recently. It is still safely tucked in the middle of the standings.

But 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 is looking for a replacement.

ALREADY GONE

Eight of the competition's 20 clubs have already changed coaches this season.

Real Madrid went through Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari before Zinedine Zidane agreed to return to the job he left at the end of last season and pilot a rebuilding project.

Sevilla fired Pablo Machín and replaced him with sport director and longtime veteran manager Joaquín Caparrós.

Rayo Vallecano brought back former coach Paco Jémez to try and avoid relegation after Miguel Ángel Sánchez was let go. It is now in last place.

Celta Vigo hired Antonio Mohamed and Miguel Cardoso, but Fran Escribá will lead the fight at the end to avoid the drop.

Leo Franco was the first coach to go in October when Huesca pushed him out in favor of Francisco Rodríguez.

Villarreal fired and then rehired Javier Calleja after Luis García was unable to stop the team's slide during his brief tenure.

Among the success stories, Gaizka Garitano completely turned around Athletic Bilbao after it lost patience with Eduardo Berrizo. Also, Imanol Alguacil has earned better results in charge of Real Sociedad following the attempt by Asier Garitano.

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