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Girona, best known to the outside world for budget airline flights to the Costa Brava and one of the filming locations of Game of Thrones, spent most of their footballing existence in the second and third tiers of the Spanish system until earning promotion to the second division in 2008 and then reaching the dizzy heights of La Liga for the first time in 2017.
They only managed to stay in the top flight for two seasons, but after three years in the second division they finally won promotion back up again last season.
The Estadi Montilivi, which takes its name from the surrounding neighbourhood, was opened in 1970, but its capacity was temporarily expanded to 13,450 following the club’s promotion to the first division. Following certain adaptations, that has since been reduced to 11,810.
HEAD TO HEAD
Barça are heading back to Girona for the first time since January 2019, when they won 2-0 with goals from Semedo and Messi. Of the four meetings between the teams the last time Girona were in the first division, three were quite comfortable wins for Barça, but in the other Girona managed a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou.
There was one more recent meeting, however. In July 2021, Barça beat Girona 3-1 in a friendly played at the Estadi Johan Cruyff.
Girona took some time to get going in their first season back with the big boys, winning just two of their first ten games. However, they started moving up the table thanks to a seven-match run, which was ended last weekend with a 1-0 defeat to Villarreal. That was only the second time this season that Girona had failed to score at least once in a game, while they have yet to keep a clean sheet. Plenty of goals to be expected then...
Girona are actually the fifth highest scoring team in the competition so far, but they are also the team that has leaked the fifth highest amount. Their overall balance is 26 goals for and 28 against.
They have the third poorest goals against tally at home, where they have conceded 14 times, despite only losing two of the nine games at Montilivi.
There are four players in the Girona quad who have a past at FC Barcelona. Uruguayan defender Santi Bueno played for the youth team in 2017 and also played some games for the B-team.
Both Arnau Martínez and Valery Fernández were at La Masia before joining l’Hospitalet and Girona respectively.
Finally, Oriol Romeu is probably the player most fans will remember. The midfielder was at the club from 2004 to 2011, and rose to Barça B but after two years he departed for Chelsea. He is best known, of course, for his over 200 appearances for Southampton.
Miguel Ángel Sánchez Muñoz, known as Míchel, spent most of his playing days at Rayo Vallecano, and that is also the club where he started out as a manager.
After a couple of years at Huesca, he took the Girona job in 2021. This will be his first ever experience of this particular derby clash, as it also will be for Xavi Hernández, and it will also be the first time these two managers have faced each other.
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