Girona and its historic season roll up at Real Madrid with Liga lead at stake

The 37-year-old Stuani has seven goals in this campaign.The visitors will also be missing starting defender Daley Blind and midfielder Yngel Herrera.

PTI | Barcelona | Updated: 08-02-2024 19:04 IST | Created: 08-02-2024 19:04 IST
Girona and its historic season roll up at Real Madrid with Liga lead at stake
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Little importance was given to Girona's away game at Real Madrid when the Spanish league published its calendar.

But six months and 23 rounds later and Saturday's game at the Santiago Bernabeu promises to decide which side will be in pole position to win the title come May.

It is a clash of the league's most trophied club against a minnow that is enjoying an historic season.

Both teams have lost only once in the league, and Madrid is just two points ahead of second-placed Girona.

Girona's stunning campaign has drawn it comparisons to Leicester City defying all the odds to win the English Premier League in 2016.

For now, Girona coach Míchel Sánchez has repeatedly said he hopes his team can keep up its strong play long enough to finish in the top four, which would earn it a Champions League berth.

''When there are 10 rounds left, we will see,'' Míchel said recently. ''What is clear is that Madrid wins its games with ease while it is tough for us. We are not at their level.'' This Girona, however, does not sit back in its area and grind out wins. It goes after rivals, regardless of reputation. It has pulled off comebacks and leads the league with 52 goals, four more than Madrid. Just ask Atletico Madrid, which Girona beat 4-3, or Barcelona, which fell 4-2 to its fellow Catalan club.

THE NUMBERS Girona's only loss came at the hands of Madrid when Jude Bellingham scored once and set up another for a 3-0 result in September.

Despite Madrid outspending Girona by 727 to 52 million euros (USD 782 to USD 56 million), they are producing similar results and individual numbers by their top players.

Bellingham and Girona striker Artem Dovbyk each has a league-high 14 goals, a mark also shared with Getafe's Borja Mayoral.

Girona winger Sávio and Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos have delivered a league-high seven assists.

Girona midfielder Aleix Garcia has completed the second-most passes, just behind Las Palmas midfielder Kirian Rodríguez, with Kroos in third.

MISSING FIGURES Girona is hoping it will have Dovbyk ready to go after he missed last weekend's 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad due to knee pain.

If not, then veteran Cristián Stuani will likely see more time in attack. The 37-year-old Stuani has seven goals in this campaign.

The visitors will also be missing starting defender Daley Blind and midfielder Yángel Herrera. Both will serve suspensions for accumulation of yellow cards.

Also, Míchel will be in the stands serving the first of a two-game suspension for protesting during the Sociedad game.

Madrid has doubts in defense where Carlo Ancelotti will have to patch together a backline possibly without any central defenders. David Alaba and Éder Militão ruptured leg ligaments near the start of the season, and Nacho Fernández and Antonio Rudiger are doubtful with minor complaints.

If none of the four are available, then Madrid may again shift right back Dani Carvajal into the middle of the defense and perhaps use midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni as a makeshift defender.

THE BEST OF THE REST Barcelona is eight points adrift of Madrid before it hosts the relegation-threatened Granada on Sunday, when fourth-placed Atletico Madrid is at Sevilla.

Athletic Bilbao, which is three points behind Atletico in fifth, visits last-placed Almeria on Monday. AP SSC SSC

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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