Last night's clash at Riazor began with disappointing news: Andrés Iniesta was not in the Barcelona starting line-up. The midfielder is such a popular figure that there is a general air of eagerness to enjoy every last minute that he has left as a Barça player. But he was carrying a bit of a niggle and Ernesto Valverde decided to keep him back. The Blaugrana coach did at least give him a run-out at the end, when the game had been won by a superb late salvo by Lionel Messi - one that got Barça out of a slightly tight spot. Anyway, the evening ended up sticking to the script: the visitors clinched the LaLiga title with Iniesta out there, and Deportivo were relegated. The hosts played marvellously, by the way, and had made Barça sweat before Messi burst into action. If possible, let that be a consolation to them.
If only Deportivo had turned to Seedorf sooner...
Watching Depor's display for much of the second half, it was hard to believe that the same team that was pinning back Barça should be facing relegation. Had they brought in Clarence Seedorf sooner it might have all been so different, lamented one of the pundits on Cadena SER. Since his appointment, he has brought about a reaction. He got no luck with his initial results, though. He has made them a more competitive, solid outfit, but - with Levante by then already on a strong late-season run - the points didn't arrive until it was too late. Because football is mischievous and likes to throw up these contrasts, confirmation of the drop coincided with Barça sealing the championship. One team with smiles on their faces as they savoured the double; the other crestfallen, feeling they had let their city down.
Clásico guard of honour for Iniesta? I think it's a great idea
As they bid to further wipe away the blemish on their campaign left by Rome, Barça's task now is to go on and complete an unbeaten LaLiga season. It's something that hasn't been done since Athletic and Real Madrid managed it in the 30s. But that was when the league was half as long. The challenge of remaining undefeated will add edge to the Clásico, which is almost upon us. Incidentally, the idea has been doing the rounds that both teams could give a guard of honour to Iniesta, who'll be playing in his last ever Clásico, having contributed so much to the fixture in his career. I'd like that. I appreciate the friction that exists between Real and Barça, but in every rivalry it's worth making the most of the opportunities that arise to come closer together and break the tension. This is one of them.