Girona’s dramatic win keeps La Liga title dream alive
Girona is scripting a remarkable season – and things got even better on Wednesday after a dramatic 4-3 win over Atlético de Madrid that kept them level on points with Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Goals from Valery, Savinho and Blind kept Girona ahead in the first half and despite Morata’s hat-trick, Iván Martín scored the winning goal in stoppage time to secure the three points at Montilivi stadium.
Girona’s victory over one of the true giants of Spanish football, placing them 12 points ahead of fifth-place Athletic Club, gives the Catalans more than enough reason to dream of playing in next year’s Champions League, Europe’s top competition.
“We are close to securing a European place, but we have to keep this momentum and try to win as many points as possible. Then at the end of the season, we’ll see where we are,” said Martín, the hero of the night, after the game.
The team coached by Míchel broke a significant record after yesterday’s victory: they have achieved the best first half of the season by a team other than the traditional powerhouses of FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid in the entire history of La Liga.
With the best attack in the league, scoring six more goals than Madrid (46), Girona has an impressive record of 15 wins, three draws and only one defeat – that one loss coming precisely against league leaders Real Madrid.
Can they really win La Liga?
Girona’s projected points haul at the end of the season, if they replicate the form of the first half of the season, is 96. Last year’s champions, Barcelona, secured the title with just 88 points.
Except for Madrid, whom they trail on goal difference (and are behind on the head-to-head standings after Madrid’s 0-3 win in Montilivi in September), the Catalans are ahead of everyone else.
Current Premier League leaders Liverpool have 45 points from 20 games, three points fewer than Girona. Meanwhile, Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen have 42 points from 16 games, PSG in France have 40 points from 17 games and Inter in Italy have 45 points from 18 games.
Girona are currently priced at 9/2 on some Spanish betting sites to win the league, although Real Madrid remain the clear favorites.
Last week, Girona coach Míchel said that surpassing the 90-point mark was crucial to their championship aspirations and that their current pace was more than adequate.
The numbers seem to indicate that they have a chance to win La Liga, but can they really keep up at this level all season?
From regional leagues to glory
As recently as 1999, Girona were competing in the Catalan regional leagues, the fifth tier of Spanish football.
The northern Catalan outfit were promoted to the top division for the first time in 2017, and are currently in their fourth campaign in the top flight. Their best La Liga season to date saw them finish in 10th place.
Girona’s budget is only around €52 million – far below Real Madrid’s €727 million, while there are only six clubs who have limits of less than €50 million – meaning avoiding relegation is the main objective for the season.
Girona are partly owned by City Football Group, the multi-club ownership model of Manchester City. In 2017, City Football Group and a company led by Pep Guardiola’s brother Pere, Girona Football Group, each acquired 44.3% of the club.
Despite this, the team are not stacked with talent from the current European champions, although some players have come and gone in past years from and to other clubs within the same structure.
Girona’s journey bears striking parallels to Leicester’s historic Premier League win in 2016, a milestone in football history. With a formidable blend of talent and determination, the Catalan outfit has the potential to repeat the feat.
First appeared on www.catalannews.com