It’s now no wins in three for Girona at arguably the most important part of the season with the chance of Europa League fading away. Whilst there was nothing to separate Girona and Levante in their last game at Montilivi, the divide in quality on the day at least was clear for everybody to see last Sunday.
Real Sociedad, a side with very little to play for other than a respectful end of season mid-table position in La Liga seemingly brushed Girona aside at ease. A rare, incredibly bad day at the office for Pablo Machín and his usually strong and stable players.
So, what’s the best way to bounce back after a such a brutal blow, crushing collapse, damaging defeat?
Call it what you like but after being thrashed 5-0 away from home, a crucial six pointer against your direct rivals for Europa League qualification has been seen widely amongst Girona supporters as the best way to address the club’s recent slump with a performance that could not only boost morale but improve performances from now until the end of the season.
Girona have performed best this season when the odds have been stacked against them. Aside from their obvious over-achievement in the face of much pre-season scepticism doubting Girona’s credentials of consolidating their position in La Liga for this season and beyond, the club’s two draws with Atlético Madrid combined with surprise victories against Villarreal, Athletic Club and most importantly Real Madrid, all came when Girona were already written off before a ball was kicked.
Just when you least expect and the mere mention of Girona’s name vanishes ever so slightly, all it can take it is one performance as they’ve displayed this season for the world to take notice of Spanish’s football greatest surprise package in recent times.
Yet in much different circumstances compared to early or mid-season ties against sides of much greater quality and present form, Real Betis are a different animal. With a new-found impetus and rich vein of form just when they need it most, even with the home advantage Girona will certainly have to re-find their hard-work, determination and enthusiasm that they’ve showed ever so often this season to stand a chance of coming out with something against Quique Setien’s impressive Real Betis.
In front of an expected sell-out crowd, expect tension, expect tenacity and expect two teams toughing it out against one other with one prize in mind… qualification for next season’s Europa League. Girona head into this evening’s game with a near fully fit squad after Douglas Luiz has returned from a recent injury to re-join with squad training this week.
Not that his arrival should make any difference however with the Brazilian’s game-time this season limited due to Machín’s unwillingness to deviate from the side which has guided the club to the dizzy heights they currently they find themselves in. And rightly so! Therefore, expect a familiar if not identical Girona side to that of last week, the week before and even the game before that.
With Bono’s confidence inevitably knocked again after conceding five goals against Real Sociedad after already conceding six goals against the likes of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in the past six weeks, a good performance tonight against Betis’ strong attack could stand the Moroccan in good stead for the rest of the campaign.
Likewise, if Portu and Stuani can link up in front of the very supporters that have seen them cast their spell on many an opposition so often this season, Real Betis could have problems on their own in restricting Girona, a team always keen to be on the front foot with a brand of attacking football, from scoring at Montilivi.
In a week where Portu extended his Girona contract until 2022, his possible spring in his step may well spread to the starting XI and will hopefully make for a pulsating tie between two of La Liga’s most attractive teams to watch play between 2017/18.