UCAM aren't happy with the Football Federation's decision to schedule their Segunda B group winners' second leg play-off final against Real Madrid Castilla for the Monday after the Champions League final.
With the other games in the competition all being played on Sunday, the Murcian club issued a statement condemning the Federation's late decision. UCAM cited that the decision had been made without consulting anyone at the club and that their supporters would be the main ones to suffer; with many already having arranged their travel to the game. Their argument is that getting to Madrid isn't going to be easy on the new date since the game is scheduled for a day when many will be at work and will find it difficult to attend.
Although nobody has said anything as yet, the change of date will also affected the other clubs in the play-offs to a certain extent. Due to the postponement, the draw for the next stages of the play-off series will now take place on Tuesday night instead of Monday, and it's likely that other clubs remaining in the competition will protest about having less logistical time available to organise their next fixture.
It's another source of friction to add to the tension already present between the two clubs after the first leg last Sunday. UCAM took quite a physical approach to the match and current Castilla coach Luis Ramis wasn't happy; complaining that it was surprising UCAM finished the game with a full complement of players. There's nothing to suggest that in coming to Madrid to defend a slender lead, UCAM are going to take a different approach to the game on Monday either. Things could get quite heated on the pitch so Castilla will need to turn in a disciplined performance if they're hoping to go up a division as champions.
Leading Castilla by 2 - 1 from the first leg, UCAM are a solid side who finished the league season as winners of Segunda B group 4; clinching the title with a 2 - 0 victory over Cádiz at the Ramón de Carranza three weeks ago. UCAM had spent most of the season in second place in the division, with Real Murcia looking like being runaway leaders until they slipped up at the end; allowing their rivals to take first place at the stage of the season where it mattered most.
In a division where the top four clubs all made a habit of taking points off each other, Real Murcia, UCAM, Sevilla Atlético and Cádiz kept the promotion places among themselves for most of the season. Only Granada B, Real Jaén and La Hoya Lorca were outside challengers to the top four but all fell away as time went by.
As Cádiz found out last season, though, winning the division doesn't guarantee promotion bearing in mind how Segunda B actually works.
The complicated play-off system means that you can finish in fourth place and still go up to Liga Adelante / La Segunda proper (depending on what you want to call it as it's going to renamed next season anyway); or you can win the group table as Cádiz did last season and still lose in the play-offs which condemns you to remain in the regionalised third tier for yet another season.
If UCAM lose in the second leg on Monday, Real Madrid Castilla will be promoted and will then face the victors of the other group winners' tie between Reus and Racing de Santander for the actual title of Segunda B champions.
It's looking like it's going to be Reus at the moment, particularly as they have a 3 - 0 lead over Racing from the first leg, and if that holds then they too will go up.
Racing (or Reus) and the losers of the Castilla - UCAM game will then join the winners of the other runner's up games in the draw for the next round of home and away eliminators. The survivors of those will finally face each other over two legs again for the two remaining promotion places (as OnkO, zead, exentrik et al discussed last week after Lucas' article on Castilla).
Last season Real Oviedo won the group winners' final by beating Gimnàstic de Tarragona. Oviedo and Gimnàstic had triumphed over Cádiz and Huesca respectively and these victories earned both clubs a place in Adelante. As for the losers, Cádiz stumbled over two legs against Bilbao Athletic and the Basques thus took the third promotion place while in the other game Huesca beat Huracán Valencia to take the final spot.
Castilla, therefore, will have still more football to play once the UCAM game is over. Depending on the result, it'll either be for the Segunda B title; or as a further eliminator. Spread over five weeks in total, this lengthy series is almost a mini-tournament in it's own right.
Although the change of date hasn't gone well in Murcia, it's only fair that Castilla are involved in the build up to the Champions League final as they are part of Real Madrid after all. The game will provide a neat distraction for the Castilla players and staff before they meet UCAM, and a positive result in Milan could have a knock-on effect for Castilla on Monday.