MADRID – With Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid struggling for consistency and dropping valuable points in recent weeks, lowly Girona have forged ahead and sit alone at the top of the LaLiga standings after a remarkable start to the campaign.
No team in Europe’s top five leagues has more points than Girona (31) at this stage of the season, a stunning statistic for a side that has flitted between the top-flight and second tier since Abu Dhabi’s City Football Group acquired 44 percent of the club in 2017.
The surprise package of the season so far, Girona’s 3-0 defeat at home to Real in late September has been the only blip since they started the campaign with a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad.
They finished 10th last season with 13 wins after returning to LaLiga but they have already registered 10 victories this campaign, with a 4-2 comeback win at Osasuna last weekend propelling them to the summit.
After coach Michel led Rayo Vallecano and Huesca back to the top flight in previous seasons, the Girona boss is now impressing in LaLiga with an attacking style that makes the most of talents like Brazilian wonderkids Savinho and Yan Couto and versatile Spanish midfielder Aleix Garcia.
As they prepare to travel to Madrid for Saturday’s clash with Rayo Vallecano, who earned a hard-fought point against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu last Sunday, Michel is realistic about his side’s chances of challenging for the title.
His goal is to finish in the top third of the table and grab one of LaLiga’s spots in next year’s European competitions.
“Our league is not against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico… I don’t dream with that league, but I do dream of Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Villarreal… Winning that league can take you to fourth and sixth. Now I do dream of that league,” Michel told a press conference after the Osasuna win.
“I dream of those positions, between fourth and sixth. I’ve seen a very determined team with a brutal mentality. We have 31 points, the goal of salvation (safety from relegation) is very close and we have to change that goal to go for the second one.”
Trailing Girona by two points in second place, Real Madrid will try to rebound from the goalless draw against Rayo as they host struggling Valencia on Saturday.
Third-placed Barca, on 27 points, host lowly Alaves on Sunday. With a game in hand, Atletico are fourth on 25 points and will host Villarreal also on Sunday. REUTERS
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