Girona still believe ahead of top-of-the-table clash with Real

rugby08 February 2024 16:36| © Reuters
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When Real Madrid lorded it over Girona with a 3-0 win at the snug Estadi Montilivi in September it looked as though the Catalan upstarts had been firmly put in their place and that their audacious LaLiga title hopes had been fantasy all along.

Scroll forward more than four months from that defeat, however, and the club many thought would most likely be in a relegation battle are still toe-to-toe with Carlo Ancelotti's star-studded Real side, who they trail by two points.

Girona have gone 15 league games unbeaten since that setback, winning 11, and on Saturday can dislodge Real from top spot if they pull off a famous win at the Bernabeu Stadium.

Girona manager Michel has been at pains to play down his side's chances of shattering the status quo in Spanish football by winning the title only seven years since the humble club first played in LaLiga.

After all, the last club other than Real Madrid, Barcelona or Atletico Madrid to finish top was Valencia 20 years ago and they were hardly regarded as underdogs.

But for neutrals, and those desperate for a new narrative, Girona's challenge to the elite has been a breath of fresh air.

Girona may be part of the same City Football Group stable as English and European champions Manchester City but they operate in another universe in terms of financial firepower.

Michel has constructed a youthful squad with an attacking style that is easy on the eye.


Ukraine striker Artem Dovbyk, badly missed in last week's 0-0 home draw with Real Sociedad but likely to play, has a league-leading 14 goals this term, the same as Real's Jude Bellingham, while Girona's total of 52 is unmatched in LaLiga.

Brazilian winger Savio has also been earning rave reviews and will be off to Manchester City at the end of the season, but Girona's main strength is their unity and team spirit – fitting for a club from a fiercely patriotic Catalan city.

They have earned 22 points from losing positions this season and whatever happens on Saturday, Michel's intrepid side will not be throwing in the towel.

A sense of injustice could also fuel their desire this weekend after some controversial decisions against Sociedad.

They had a Yangel Herrera goal ruled out for offside by VAR even though the offence took place 37 seconds earlier.

Midfielder Herrera was also booked, meaning he misses Saturday's clash along with experienced defender Daley Blind, while Michel will be absent from the touchline after being sent off for expressing his frustration.

Near the end of the draw, Girona's fans chanted 'Asi, asi, asi gana Madrid' which translates as 'That's how Madrid win'.

Real also drew last weekend, 1-1 at home to fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, and have defensive headaches.

Nacho is almost certainly out due to a muscle issue while Antonio Rudiger is struggling with a knee injury. David Alaba and Eder Militao are also still sidelined so Real could have a patched up back four to deal with LaLiga's most potent attack.

Ancelotti has seen it all before though.

"We are leaders and we have another chance to make a statement win next Saturday," the Italian said.

Third-placed Barcelona, eight points off the pace, will seek to keep their remote title hopes alive at home to struggling Granada on Sunday when Atletico, 10 adrift, visit Sevilla.