Bouncebackability: the ability to recover from a setback or defeat. Although there have been many strings to Girona’s impressive bow this season, do they have they quality to address their recent slump and return to winning ways against Deportivo Alavés on Gameweek 33?
Amid torrential rain and poor playing conditions last Friday night at Montilivi, Real Betis came out on top in what was billed widely as a six-pointer between the two Europa League chasing sides.
At least on paper when looking at both sides’ league results this season you may have thought it would have been a much more equal affair than what it turned out to be.
Instead, Girona never really looked like scoring from open play with three disallowed goals in many ways papering over the cracks that any clear-cut goalscoring opportunities were few and far between. Admittedly there was scope to suggest the referee was at fault for Girona’s third goal that was wrongly ruled offside but I’m sure even the greatest and most honest of Girona supporter would admit that Machín’s side were outplayed by a Real Betis side that have found their most impressive form since the turn of the calendar year.
Betis, in peak condition at the most important part of the season, stood out at Montilivi with Girona in many ways looking a shadow of their former self and some way from their swashbuckling best enjoyed earlier on in the 17/18 season. Nonetheless Girona supporters still believe and their passion appears as strong as it ever has been if their grand welcome of the players team bus last Friday night was anything to go by.
Although it wasn’t to be against Betis, as it stands the results of the teams around them mean that they are still only four points away from Europa League qualification. A result therefore against a team like Deportivo Alavés, a side with admittedly little to play for after securing top flight survival some weeks ago could stand Girona in good stead with a favourable run of games coming up.
A lot depends on the form of Portu and Cristhian Stuani who have struggled to recapture their early season partnership which as prolific as it was, was always going to be difficult to sustain over thirty eight games. Similarly whilst Girona are very much prescribed to the attitude that you shouldn’t try to fix something unless it’s broken, Machín’s rare deviation from a formation that has been a staple of his time at Girona in opting to go with two up front and four at the back after the halfway point against Real Betis, could be a sign of what’s to come in their upcoming fixture with Alavés.
With this in mind, expect to see Choco Lozano or the now fit again Michael Olunga to feature at some point if Stuani isn’t quite cutting it in front of goal. With Jonas Ramalho set to miss out due to injury, it’s likely that Marc Muniesa will return to the Girona starting XI after finding first team opportunities hard to come by in the second half of the season.
Similarly with doubts over the fitness of Alex Granell who has been struggling with a knock, as well as the fatigue of full backs Johan Mojica and Pablo Maffeo, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see Douglas Luiz chanced in the heart of midfield with Aday Benitez and Carles Planas restored in both wide positions. Yet whichever way Pablo Machín decides to set up his starting XI for Thursdays game, it really is now or never if Girona are to keep pushing for European football or whether they’ll have to find perfection out of imperfection and simply make do with the success of staying in La Liga.
By all accounts perhaps an over-achievement given many supporters (including mine) and pundits pre-season hopes for the club but with the priceless chance to now become a ‘Ciutat de Europa’ as well as Primera, failure to do so would seem like a big opportunity missed with regards to just how well they have performed this season.