One more season, the La Liga title will be played between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, we cannot say that there will be no suspense or spectacle in this second part of the season, quite the contrary. Behind the two ogres, the European places will be very expensive, and it is quite possible that we will have some teams which manage to qualify for competitions to which they are not accustomed. Betis and Real Sociedad, fifth and third respectively, could well find a place in the Champions League, while Osasuna has a good chance of grabbing a place in the Europa League or the Conference League. And not far behind, there is one of the fashionable teams at the moment in our Iberian neighbors, Girona. The most fervent La Liga fans will inevitably remember this great team from the 2017/2018 season, under the orders of Pablo Machín, with players like Bono, Mojica, Portu or Stuani, who are also still present in the squad. And this season, for their return to La Liga after their relegation from 2019, the Catalan outfit are doing just as well.
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Under the orders of Michel – not to be confused with the former OM – the stable of the city located 100km north of Barcelona delights everyone. It is clearly one of the teams that plays the most pleasant game in the championship, with particularly offensive intentions. With a coach who does not want his team to just defend as he has already hammered home several times in front of the press, the team sometimes displays different tactical systems, but the general idea is always the same: control the game In a press conference granted to the international media in which we were able to participate, Oriol Romeu summed up the style of the team well. “We are a courageous, aggressive team, we try to defend very high. Even if we are quite young in this league, we still want to dominate, attack as much as possible. Sometimes it exposes us a bit in defense (laughs), we have to improve on that, but our number of goals scored is one of the highest in La Liga (the 5th best attack in La Liga, Ed) ”explains the midfielder trained at Barça, indisputable in this Girona team.
Michel, the architect
And facing the championship leader this Saturday, there is no question of changing his principles as Romeu explained to us: “When you play such a talented team, you have to make them feel uncomfortable, make them do things they’re not used to doing. Players like Gavi, Pedri, Busquets, forwards, can run behind the ball, but that’s not their primary quality. So we will have to control the ball a little longer, make them run a little more behind the ball to tire them out, that will help us create more chances. It will also be necessary to win the duels, to be mean in the good sense of the term”. But above all, it is a particularly attractive squad, in which we find a clever mix of experienced players, such as Oriol Romeu, Christian Stuani and David Lopez, and rather promising young people, such as the two full-backs Miguel Gutierrez (on loan from Real Madrid ) and Arnau Martinez, or Rodrigo Riquelme. Not to mention interesting profiles like Aleix Garcia, the playmaker, or Taty Castellanos, whose arrival in Europe after having been a hit in MLS is particularly successful.
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A group formed by former Barça player Delfí Geli and sports director Kike Cárcel, a former pro player in the 90s-2000s, and well helped by the City Group. Indeed, the Catalan club is part of the group led by Manchester City which has 12 teams around the world. Although it should be noted that in the case of Girona, and unlike Troyes or New York City FC, the City Group has “only” 47% of the club’s shares, the rest belonging in particular to the brother of Pep Guardiola , Pere, who has been working hand in hand with the Saudis for some time and chairs the club’s board of directors, and Bolivian businessman Marcelo Claure, close to David Beckham. Contrary to what one might think – and this is legitimate when there are so many thinking heads and decision-makers within the same club – it works particularly well on all fronts on the Girona side and it is far from be the mess. Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City coach, is even involved in the project, and has met several times with Michel to talk about football.
The jewel of the City Group
It must be said that the collaboration between the two clubs dates from before the entry of the Citizens into the shareholding of the club, in 2017. Indeed, in 2015, Manchester City had then bought Ruben Sobrino, striker of the Ponferradina, to lend him at the Catalan stable. Same modus operandi for Pablo Marí a year later. One thing seems certain, the goal of the City Group with Girona is not to make it a simple subsidiary club to send young people there on loan. They are also only two to be loaned by the English champion in the workforce: Yangel Herrera and Yan Couto. The CFG staff really want to establish the club permanently in the elite of Spanish football and these strong links between different clubs in the group will above all serve to strengthen Girona rather than use it as a springboard for young hopefuls. We saw it with Castellanos this summer, and Girona was able to grill several more upscale clubs who coveted him because of having the same owners as the NYCFC where the Argentine played. Likewise for Alexander Callens, featured earlier in the week. This winter, the Catalans also welcomed Viktor Tsygankov, one of the very best Ukrainian players, who arrived from Dynamo kyiv for only 5 million euros. A transfer signed Pere Guardiola, who convinced the player to come to Spain, while several clubs wanted him in England.
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Internally, communication between the various decision-makers and Michel is very fluid. It must be said that by appointing the coach who has three climbs from D2 to D1 with three different clubs, the management of Girona has offered himself a coach to match his ambitions. “The objective is 53 points, to do better than the best season in the history of the club in La Liga”, he confided recently, where the coaches of newly promoted teams are generally used to talking about maintaining, or these famous 42 points which would guarantee them the place in the first division for an additional season. The project is solid, no doubts, but it will be hoped that the leaders have learned from their past mistakes and from this relegation in 2019 after the first two seasons of the club’s history in the first division. But the trend rather calls for optimism and for imagining a rather serene and tranquil future for White-i-Vermells…