BARCELONA Fallen giants Valencia are in the middle of their worst crisis for 30 years and some fans turned on them at the weekend as the prospect of spending Christmas in La Liga's relegation zone loomed large.
Saturday's 3-2 defeat at Real Sociedad left Spain's fifth most successful club one place above the drop zone, level on points with third from bottom Sporting Gijon, as they battle to avoid going down for the first time since 1986.
Valencia's game with Real Madrid this week has been postponed due to the European champions' participation in the Club World Cup.
That means Gijon can condemn Cesare Prandelli's side to a 2016 Christmas in the bottom three by picking up a point at home to fourth-placed Villarreal on Saturday.
The defeat by Sociedad sparked violent scenes when Valencia's players returned home.
Around 50 'ultra' supporters blocked the bus from entering the training ground, forcing the squad to call for police assistance.
Fans howled at the players as they got off the bus but Prandelli escaped the tirade of abuse. He was cheered after having criticised the attitude of the squad before the game at Sociedad.
The coach gave another scathing assessment of his team after shambolic defending allowed Sociedad forward Willian Jose to score twice in the opening 24 minutes.
"Everything is more difficult when you start a game losing 2-0. The league table never lies, it's a reflection of a team's values," said Prandelli.
The former Italy boss is the eighth coach Valencia have appointed since parting ways with Unai Emery in 2012.
Despite having considerably more experience than predecessors such as Gary Neville and Pako Ayesteran, Prandelli has had no luck in reviving the team's fortunes.
According to local media, he flew to Singapore on Sunday for talks with billionaire owner Peter Lim.
The pair are likely to discuss plans for the January transfer window, perhaps seeking to plug gaping holes left in the squad after key players like Shkodran Mustafi, Andre Gomes, Paco Alcacer and Alvaro Negredo left earlier this year.
"The club has spent two years suffering, it has structural problems. There are a lot of young players," said Prandelli.
"The club needs to seriously think about how it can improve and decide what the team's future is going to be."
Valencia have won six La Liga titles, most recently in 2004, and reached consecutive Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)