Alaves appoints Calleja to lead it out of trouble

Alaves sacked coach Abelardo Fernandez on Monday, a day after losing 3-1 at home to Celta Vigo to slip to the bottom of the standings.

Javi Calleja successfully leading Villarreal away from danger in the 2018/19 season.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Struggling La Liga side Alaves said on Tuesday it has appointed Javi Calleja as its new coach, and will be hoping the veteran of relegation battles can lift its club out of the drop-zone.

The Basque side sacked coach Abelardo Fernandez on Monday, a day after losing 3-1 at home to Celta Vigo to slip to the bottom of the standings.

Abelardo was the third coach the club has sacked in the past year, dispensing with Asier Garitano last June and Pablo Machin in January of this year.

Calleja has experience in relegation scraps, successfully leading Villarreal away from danger in the 2018/19 season.

He helped Villareal qualify for the Europa League the following campaign, only for the club to appoint Unai Emery instead.

Alaves gained European recognition for playing out a thrilling 5-4 defeat to Liverpool in the 2001 UEFA Cup final but then spent a long spell away from Spain's top-flight, returning only in 2016.

It has stayed in La Liga ever since but is three points from escaping the relegation zone with nine games remaining.

"This is a very big and difficult challenge but we're highly motivated by it and convinced we can get the job done," said Calleja.

"We're excited about getting started and believe that we'll remain in La Liga next season."