MADRID — Celta Vigo’s trip to Real Madrid and Barcelona’s visit to Deportivo Coruña today provide stark reminders of the contrasting fortunes of La Liga’s leading duo compared to many of their rivals.
Champions Real, who are fifth after a poor start to the campaign, trail leaders Barça by eight points but there is little doubting that come next May the world’s two richest clubs by revenue will be the only ones battling for the title.
Ten years ago, Galician sides “Depor” and Celta were both up there competing for the top spot and finished third and fourth respectively. Vicente del Bosque’s Real team took the 2002-2003 league title, with Barca finishing sixth.
That season, Depor triumphed 2-0 over Barça in the corresponding fixture at the Riazor, just a few months after beating Real 2-1 to win the King’s Cup final the previous season. Celta held Real 1-1 at the Bernabeu.
A repeat of those results this time round would be considered major upsets.
While Barça and Real have steadily increased their earnings up to the ₤500 million mark over the last decade, Celta and 2000 champions Depor have both crumpled under crippling debts.
Depor, with a budget of around ₤40 million ($52,48 million) and a debt of over 100 million, are in a precarious position having just returned from a season in the second division.
After an opening day win, their coach Jose Luis Oltra is under pressure following a run of three draws and three defeats which has left them 18th in the standings.
Celta, operating on a budget of around ₤33 million, are in a slightly healthier position.
Relegation in 2007 led to the club going into administration with a debt of around ₤70 million but their return after five years out of the top flight has started a little better.
Under coach Paco Herrera, a former assistant to Rafa Benitez at Liverpool, they have taken nine points from seven games and lie 12th.
Celta midfielder Borja Oubina was a member of the side that won on their last two trips to the Bernabeu in the
2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons before they were relegated.
“The budgets of the two big teams are much larger now and it is tougher to beat them,” the 30-year-old said.
“But we have nothing to lose and this could work in our favour.”
Jose Mourinho’s Real appear to have suffered the most from the break for internationals going into today’s game.