Meet Girona…the tiny club heading into their first La Liga season
They have no prior experience of La Liga. Their average attendance last season was 5,516. Oh, and they don’t have a single striker in their squad. But under talented young boss Pablo Machin, top-flight newboys Girona FC have relished being the underdogs.
The club’s incredible rise began before Machin’s arrival, as they secured a place in Spain’s Segunda Division back in 2008, the first time the club had played in the second tier since 1959.
After surviving a relegation scare during their first season back in the (fairly) big time, the Catalonian club stabilised, and by 2013 they were battling for promotion. And after three near-misses, they finally made it up in May following a 0-0 draw with Numancia.
However, with Blanquivermell having the longest odds of any side to survive in La Liga at even-money, is competing at this level a bridge too far?
They’ve certainly been decimated by the return of last season’s crucial loan striker Samuel Longo to Inter Milan. But while the jewel in the Segunda Division’s highest-scoring side last term is yet to be replaced, Girona have strengthened at the other end.
Bernardo Espinosa – signed from Middlesbrough for £3.83m – offers power and a real aerial presence at centre-back, while tricky left-back Carles Planas joins from Celta Vigo and has 49 La Liga appearances under his belt.
Meanwhile, the core of the midfield has remained, with assist king Portu and the classy Ruben Alcaraz both looking to build on an impressive campaign which saw the pair net a combined 15 goals.
Still, with such a small squad right now (16 senior players), Machin will need a very savvy eye in the loan market once again.
However, last season saw Longo arrive, as well as a trio of young talents from Manchester City – so there’s little doubt the 42-year-old has the contacts to bring in a good calibre of loanee.
That’s something Eibar – themselves first-timers in La Liga in 2015 – have done very successfully, with loanee Borja Baston a revelation for Los Armeros during their fledgling La Liga campaign.
In truth, they can act as a blueprint for Girona this season. Both came up to La Liga for the very first time, with crowds of around 5,000, and extremely modest resources and budget.
Eibar finished 14th in their first top-tier campaign, and eighth last year, including a draw at the Bernabeu and a 4-0 rout of Atletico Madrid.
Girona can take positives from that example, as well as from the strengthening of their defensive ranks, and their manager’s savvy business in last summer’s window.
But guys, you’ve really got to buy a striker. At least one.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing