Can Girona “do a Leicester” and win the Spanish La Liga against all odds? A big step is needed for Míchel’s side as they face league leaders Real Madrid this Saturday.
The unexpected 2015–16 Premier League champions serve as an inspiration for smaller teams aiming to challenge the top clubs. La Liga has been ruled by Real Madrid, Barcelona, and occasionally Atlético in recent years, with Valencia being the last team out of the “big three” to win it, 20 years ago. A team that’s exciting to watch, Girona, could get closer to “doing a Leicester” by winning against Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Girona is just in their second season in the top division following their promotion from La Liga 2 in 2022, much like Leicester was during their championship-winning campaign. Similar to Ranieri, Míchel aimed to reach the 40-point mark, he obviously wasn’t expecting they would contend for Europe, much less the top position.
However, the Catalan side is scoring points at a much faster rate than Leicester. They achieved 40 points this season in December, making them the first team in the top five leagues in Europe. They are averaging 2.43 points per game as opposed to Leicester’s 2.04, with nine more points than Leicester had at this point in the 2015–16 campaign.
Leicester City’s remarkable composure led them to clinch the Premier League title, securing the championship with 81 points, being one of the lowest totals for a Premier League winner in the 21st century.
Conversely, Girona faces a more daunting path as Real Madrid demonstrate consistent form. Even in the absence of key players such as Thibaut Courtois, Éder Militão, and David Alaba, they have maintained an unbeaten record in 17 league matches, which includes a recent run of six consecutive victories. They are the best defence in the league, conceding just 15 goals in 23 games in La Liga, in contrast to the 25 goals conceded by the Catalan team.
Even struggling teams like Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are proving tougher opponents than Leicester’s rivals, as they surpass Leicester’s 47 points after 23 games with 50 and 48 points respectively.
“I think that is the big difference [with Leicester],” defender Eric García told ESPN. “This season we have, us, Madrid, Barça, and Atlético… and hardly anyone is losing games. Everyone is picking up points, so it’s going to be tougher for sure.”
Moreover, this Girona does not sit back in its area and grind out wins, they play exciting football. The Catalan team leads La Liga in scoring with 52 goals, maintaining an average possession of over 56% per game. Combined with a meticulously organized pressing game, at their best, they are nearly unplayable.
Hugo Duro, Valencia’s striker, was amazed following his defeat at Montilivi back in December. He said Girona “play with you” and “don’t let you breathe,” adding that “there is a reason why they are league leaders.”
Girona have gone 15 league games unbeaten since their loss to Real Madrid back in September, their only defeat in La Liga this season. They have faced several challenges this season already, and yet they keep going.
Míchel’s side were supposed to lose when they travelled to Barcelona in December; they dominated 4-2. They were then expected to go down when they hosted Atlético at the start of January; they won 4-3 with a 91st minute winner by Iván Martin.
Both Girona and Madrid drew their last game, against two tough opponents in Real Sociedad (0-0) and Atlético de Madrid (1-1), respectively.
Atlético’s manager, Diego Simeone talked to ESPN before Girona’s draw against La Real: “Girona will go as far as their focus takes them,” he added, “They have three big matches now that will reveal where they could end up. These games will be telling. They have maintained the pace until now.”
Míchel has managed to put together a young, hard-working team with an attractive attacking style. After their fifth booking of the season in the team’s draw with Real Sociedad last week, Daley Blind and Yangel Herrera will not play against Madrid. Artem Dovbyk, the team’s top scorer, is doubtful for the encounter, and Míchel will serve the first of a two-game suspension for getting sent off in the same match.
The Madrilenian declared, “We will be missing important players, but we will be ready to compete Saturday. To arrive at the Bernabéu in these circumstances is a dream come true.”
Bellingham and Dovbyk each have a league-high 14 goals, plus Girona winger Sávio and Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos have delivered a league-high 7 assists. Girona midfielder Aleix Garcia has completed the second-most passes, just behind Las Palmas midfielder Kirian Rodríguez.
Undoubtedly one of Girona’s standout performers, Aleix García, stated, “If we manage to win at the Bernabéu, it would make a real statement and people will really think that Girona are in the race.” He then added, “We will just keep thinking that there is a long way to go, and it’s going to be tough. But, of course, we want to make a statement against Madrid.”
The best defence meets the best offence in an epic battle for the league title. Will Girona take the three points and make a statement as favourites to win the championship?