With Girona and Barcelona meeting on Sunday on La Liga, only one of them can go top of the league with a victory. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it's Barcelona considering they won La Liga last season, but it's actually Girona, a club that is putting together one of the most impressive seasons in all of European soccer. Only back in La Liga from the second division since 2022, Girona have exceeded all expectations and control their own destiny in both the Champions League and title races.
With only one loss through 15 games, if Girona are able to defeat Barcelona, they will go two points clear of Real Madrid atop the table as they've also been the highest-scoring club in La Liga. Míchel has led the City Football Group club on an impressive journey but their story is far from done being written. But what makes this team tick?
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Here's what to know about the club from northern Catalonia.
Usually setting up in a 4-5-1 that can operate like a 4-3-3, Girona won't compromise their style for anyone. Going forward early and often, Girona score at will but they can also concede quite a few goals due to their high-risk attack. Midweek in Copa Del Rey play, Girona were behind 2-1 at half to Orihuela but proceeded to score four goals after the 66th minute to turn that around into a 5-2 victory and that's indicative of their league style too. Girona needed two goals after the 80th minute to defeat Valencia recently and also left it late to put Osasuna away. While on one hand this would say that Girona need to start on the front foot more, it also shows that they're never out of a match which is critical to winning a title. With the teams around them all involved in European soccer, this a chance to take advantage of a slightly leaner schedule compared to their rivals.
Players to watch
Ukrainian forward Artem Dovbyk is the team's leading scorer with seven goals and four assists but it has been a balanced attack as seven players have three or more goals and another three have four or more assists. Brazilian winger Savio, just 19, has been enjoying a breakout season on one wing while Dovbyk's countryman Viktor Tsigankov has had a dynamic presence on the opposite wing. Deeper in midfield, Yangel Herrera has shined after taking the step up from another City Football Group club, New York City FC in Major League Soccer. Seeing the varied backgrounds of the squad shows why teams in the CFG system are able to thrive because scouting is much easier tapping into their systems to find a player who will slot right in instead of relying on guesswork. Being able to bring in their leading scorer from last season, Cristhian Stuani, from the bench when needed has only added to Girona's depth, making them more dangerous.
Defensively, the backline is anchored by Daley Blind who still hasn't lost a step at 33 and he covers Paulo Gazzaniga in net. Struggling to retain a starting role after leaving Rayo Vallecano in 2017, Gazzaniga is now at the upper reaches of La Liga again speaking to Girona's impressive roster building.
Can they win the title?
While Girona certainly have a chance to lift the La Liga trophy at the end of the season, a lot of the reason why they've been able to rise to where they are is due to Real Madrid's injuries. Los Blancos are still the team to beat in Spain but that doesn't mean that if they don't slip up Girona can't pull off something magical. Even making Champions League would be an impressive accomplishment for Girona and despite being owned by the same group as Manchester City, they would be able to play European soccer if given the chance. Girona can't have started off the first potion of the season better than they have but if they can topple Barcelona at home, that's where this really begins to turn into reality.