x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

A return to the top beckons for Deportivo and Celta

At least one of Spain's most intense derbies has now been reignited in a season both clubs have enjoyed, albeit in Spain's second division.

Deportivo de la Coruna's midfielder Juan Carlos Valeron (L) vies with Almeria's Cameroonian midfielder Modeste M'Bami (R) during the Spanish King's Cup (Copa del Rey) football match RC Deportivo de La Coruna vs UD Almeria on January 19, 2011 at the Municipal de Riazor stadium in La Coruna. AFP PHOTO/ MIGUEL RIOPA
Deportivo de la Coruna's midfielder Juan Carlos Valeron (L) vies with Almeria's Cameroonian midfielder Modeste M'Bami (R) during the Spanish King's Cup (Copa del Rey) football match RC Deportivo de La Coruna vs UD Almeria on January 19, 2011 at the Municipal de Riazor stadium in La Coruna. AFP PHOTO/ MIGUEL RIOPA

It was the game Spain was talking about. Two great rivals, first against second in the league. A capacity crowd and a big security operation ensued for one of the fiercest rivalries in Iberia. Barcelona versus Real Madrid?

No, not yet. Celta Vigo took on Deportivo La Coruna in the Galician derby on Spain's wild north-west Atlantic coast.

Both teams have played Uefa Champions League football in the last decade, both have featured top-class players such as Rivaldo, Valeron, Makaay, Mostovoi, Salgado, Sylvinho and Tristan.

In 2002/03, Deportivo, league winners in 2000, finished third with Celta one place behind, Barca a distant sixth. Deportivo beat Manchester United at Old Trafford and reached the Champions League semi-finals.

Then a gradual decline set in, the Galicians unable to compete with an increasing amount of television revenues being given to Barcelona and Real.

Celta were first relegated in 2004, though they bounced back before going down again in 2007. When Deportivo followed them last season, Galicia was without a top-flight team for the first time in two decades.

At least one of Spain's most intense derbies has now been reignited in a season both clubs have enjoyed.

Deportivo are top of the league and set for an immediate return. Juan Carlos Valeron and Manuel Pablo, both 36, are veterans from the Deportivo side who are still playing in the Riazor - Europe's best located stadium by a stunning Atlantic beach - to surging attendances.

They have won 15 of their 17 home games, as would be expected of the team with the biggest budget in the league.

Those wins may be in the maligned Spanish second division, where average crowds are below 10,000 and half what they are in England's second tier, but there is nothing like a promotion campaign to lift confidence at a club.

Celta's home was filled for Sunday's derby. And what a game it was. Deportivo went 2-0 up, Celta pulled back to make it 2-2 after 83 minutes before the visitors got a 92nd-minute winner.

Deportivo are eight points clear, while Celta should regain second place if they win their game in hand.

Just do not remind them how well they were doing a decade ago.

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