Football: Day of destiny for Deportivo: Phil Davison reports from Spain on an unfashionable club's quest for the title

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The Independent Online
DEPORTIVO who? Many a football fan may not even have heard of them but Deportivo La Coruna, from Spain's equivalent of John o'Groats, have their first Spanish league title at their fingertips.

The Spanish championship will be decided by around 9.15pm British time tonight and will go to Deportivo if they beat Valencia. Mighty Barcelona, however, are breathing down the necks of the team from the Atlantic coast and, at home to Seville, they can snatch the title if they chalk up one point more than Deportivo.

It is the third year in a row that the Spanish championship has gone to the wire. On the final days of the past two seasons, a grateful Barcelona accepted the league trophy almost incredulously after their arch-rivals, Real Madrid, threw away the lead, on both occasions away to Tenerife.

There were rumours, both years, of money changing hands. Tonight the referees and linesmen at the two key games will be followed everywhere, including the toilet - in case bags of banknotes get shoved between cubicles - by trusted and experienced former referees assigned as 'watchmen' for the night.

Adding spice to the proceedings is the fact that Barcelona's opponents, Seville, are battling for a Uefa Cup place. As for Valencia, Cruyff's countryman, Guus Hiddink, their coach, insists they will play to win 'for our honour'. Their key defender, Jose Camarasa, was unusually honest. 'All our fans want Deportivo to win the league,' he said.

Meanwhile, the town of La Coruna has serious football fever. Blue and white flags and banners hanging from windows and balconies have turned the town into a sea of colour. Their seafront Riazor stadium, within sight of the port from which the Spanish armada once sailed for England, will be packed with a capacity 20,000 crowd, pressing transistor radios to their ears to follow Barcelona's progress.

Their coach, Arsenio Iglesias, at 62 the oldest in senior Spanish football, says he could sell 150,000 season tickets if the stadium were big enough. If his 'Riazor Blues' pull it off tonight, he will be a hero not only in La Coruna, the Galicia region and Madrid but to every football-lover in the country. Except in Barcelona, of course.