Girona seek to reignite shock La Liga title charge

Rayo Vallecano’s Spanish midfielder #14 Kike Perez fights for the ball with Girona’s Brazilian midfielder #16 Savio Moreira during the Spanish league football match between Girona FC and Rayo Vallecano de Madrid at the Montilivi stadium in Girona on February 26, 2024. AFP

Surprise contenders Girona seemed to have stumbled in their La Liga title bid when they went three games without a win earlier in the month but victory on Monday moved them back into second.

Michel’s side required two late goals from Savio to ensure the much-needed points against Rayo Vallecano with a 3-0 victory, ending a run of one draw and back-to-back defeats.

A crushing 4-0 defeat on February 10 to Real Madrid followed up by a 3-2 loss at Athletic Bilbao opened up a six-point gap between Madrid and Girona, who had been neck and neck for months at the top of the table.

The welcome return to winning form on matchday 26 leapfrogged Girona back above Barcelona and into second place, restoring a two-point cushion between them and their Catalan neighbours.

“There is still a lot to do, but the team needed to win after three games without a victory,” Girona coach Michel said after the Rayo success.

The Rojiblancos travel to Mallorca on Sunday seeking to put their poor recent form firmly behind them and also to enact revenge upon the side that knocked them out of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals in January.

But by the time Girona kick off they could find themselves nine points adrift of Madrid after Carlo Ancelotti’s charges visit ninth-placed Valencia on Saturday.

The league leaders will still be without top scorer Jude Bellingham and have struggled for goals since his injury in the handsome win against Girona.

Los Blancos have scored just three goals in their three games since his absence, including two 1-0 wins, and in Valencia face a side that average just over one goal conceded per league game.

The most eye-catching encounter of the weekend is third-placed Barcelona’s trip to the Basque country to take on fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

The Catalan side have four wins in their last five La Liga matches as they aim to defend last season’s league title.

This strong run has been boosted by Robert Lewandowski’s return to goalscoring form since the turn of the year.

On the other hand, victory for the hosts could move them into the Champions League spots should fourth-placed Atletico Madrid fail to win at home to Real Betis earlier on Sunday.

Player to watch: Johnny Cardoso (Real Betis)

Since the arrival of the American international in January, he has become a mainstay for Manuel Pellegrini in central midfield as Real Betis have worked their way up the table to sixth spot.

The 22-year-old has been integral for his side, who are undefeated in the month of February, and opened his La Liga account in a 3-1 win against Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

Cardoso’s performances even earned him the Under-23 player of the month award on Wednesday, beating out Eduardo Camavinga and Lamine Yamal.

Key stats

10 – Girona have scored 10 build-up goals this season, more than any other team in the top five European leagues according to Opta statisticians.

16 – Real Madrid have conceded 16 goals this campaign, constituting their best ever defensive record in the league after 26 matches.

2,028 – Las Palmas midfielder Kirian Rodriguez has so far attempted 2,028 passes, he is the only player in the league to have surpassed the 2,000 mark.

Fixtures (all times GMT)


Celta Vigo v Almeria (2000)


Sevilla v Real Sociedad (1300), Rayo Vallecano v Cadiz (1515), Getafe v Las Palmas (1730), Valencia v Real Madrid (2000)


Villarreal v Granada (1300), Atletico Madrid v Real Betis (1515), Mallorca v Girona (1730), Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona (2000)


Osasuna v Alaves (2000)

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