The lowdown on Girona FC

The lowdown on Girona FC

Barça are heading north this Sunday to face fellow Catalan club Girona - here's our guide to our next Liga opponents

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.

Boosted by investment from the City Football Group, which also has shares in Manchester City, New York City, Melbourne City, Yokohama Marinos (Japan) and Club Atlético Torque (Uruguay), the club has managed to settle very nicely among the top flight elite.

STADIUM

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.

Of course, this fixture could have been played in a very different location, for this was the one that was pencilled in for the historic first-ever Liga game in the United States, a project that ultimately failed to get off the ground.

HEAD TO HEAD

Back in the early days, the two clubs met on an annual basis in the Catalan Championship, and have continued to frequently meet in friendlies, as well as a Spanish Cup encounter in 1949 that Barça won 9-0.

But it wasn’t until last season that they finally crossed paths in La Liga. Barça won 3-0 at Montilivi (thanks to two own goals and a third from Luis Suárez) and cruised to 6-1 victory at Camp Nou (with a further three goals for Suárez, plus two for Leo Messi and one for Philippe Coutinho).

But Girona snatched an impressive 2-2 draw at Camp Nou earlier this season, with Barça playing most of the game with ten men after Clement Lenglet was sent off. Cristhian Stuani seized the chance to score twice to cancel out Messi’s opener, and Gerard Piqué claimed the equaliser.

FORM GUIDE

Since a 3-1 derby victory at Espanyol in November, Girona have gone for seven games without a win, taking just four points out of a possible 21. With just two wins from ten games at Montilivi, it’s thanks to their early away form that they are still in the top half of the Liga table.

Girona have also reached the Spanish Cup quarter finals for the first time in their history, but suffered 4-2 defeat to Real Madrid in Thursday’s first leg.

THE PLAYERS

Cristhian Stuani is having another stupendous season up front, his 12 league goals only bettered by his international team-mate Luis Suárez and by ‘pichichi’ Messi.

Moroccan goalie Yassine Bounou has the second best save ratio in the competition this season (77.8%). Colombian defender Bernardo Espinosa and midfielder Borja García are among the other players having standout seasons for the red-and-whites.

Fans in England (and in Scotland because of his time at Celtic) will be keen to see what Patrick Roberts can do, although the Londoner has been featuring in most games as a substitute.

No fewer than three Girona players have a Barça past. Defenders Marc Muniesa and Carles Planas arrived from Barça B via Stoke City and Celta respectively, while reserve keeper José Aurelio Suárez was also a regular for our reserves.

THE BOSS

The architect of Girona’s rise, Pablo Machín, switched allegiances to Sevilla in the summer and was replaced by Eusebio Sacristán, who was out of work after stepping down after three seasons in charge of Real Sociedad.

A regular part of the FC Barcelona first team throughout the Dream Team era, after retirement he went into management as part of Frank Rijkaard’s staff at the Camp Nou, and later coached Barça B from 2011–15.

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