Deportivo Seek One Point for the Spanish Title
Deportivo La Coruna need just a point at Espanyol on Friday to secure their first-ever Spanish championship and wreck Barcelona's hopes of salvaging something for their season.
Barcelona and Real Zaragoza, three points behind the league leaders from Galicia, both have chances of winning the title on Friday but the ball is firmly in the court of Deportivo coach Javier Irrureta.
A missed penalty by Deportivo's Yugoslavian Miroslav Djukic in the final match of the 1993/94 seasons, after Brazilian Bebeto refused to take the spot kick, handed the title to Barcelona.
Barcelona, who plays Celta Vigo, is breathing down Deportivo's neck again.
Should Deportivo lose, the scenario gets a little complicated. In that case, should Zaragoza win at Valencia and Barcelona fail to get three points at the Nou Camp, Zaragoza, the 1995 European Cup Winners Cup champions, would earn the Spanish crown.
Of course if Deportivo lost, Zaragoza failed to win and Barcelona beat Vigo, the title would go to the Catalans, whose president Josep Lluis Nunez has reportedly resigned and whose coach Louis Van Gaal is set to leave.
"We have the most important 90 minutes of the club's history," said Deportivo president Augusto Lendoiro.
Barcelona have promised a 300-million-peseta ($1.8-million) bonus to city neighbors Espanyol to beat Deportivo, Madrid sports daily Marca reported on Tuesday.
Deportivo were also reported by Marca to be on a total bonus of 500 million pesetas ($3 million) from their own club should they win the championship.
Espanyol have nothing to play for in their last league match and will no doubt be thinking of their May 27 Spanish Cup final against Atletico Madrid.
Barca must also do well against Celta to ensure playing in the European Champions League next season after being ousted by Valencia in the semifinal of this year's competition.
Apart from the top three, Real Madrid, who host Valladolid, Alaves and Valencia, who occupy the next three places, are all guaranteed European action next season.
The top four will be in the Champions League, the fifth and sixth in the UEFA Cup, with the Spanish Cup winners also earning a UEFA place.
However if the winner of the Real Madrid versus Valencia Champions League final next Wednesday does not finish in the top four, the fourth-placed team in the league will only play in the UEFA Cup.
Alaves will be hoping to upstage Athletic Bilbao, who are led by French coach Luis Fernandez for the last time.
Behind the top six, the next four clubs would be able to compete in the Intertoto Cup, which could lead to a UEFA Cup place.
Celta Vigo, Mallorca, who host Atletico Madrid, Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano, who travel to Sevilla, are currently in the seventh to 10th positions.
Real Betis, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are already assured of finishing in the bottom three relegation places - (AFP)
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