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Underdog Girona's Pursuit: Aiming to Achieve What Giants Couldn't


Surprising LaLiga pacesetters Girona are set to confront Rayo Vallecano on Saturday with the aim of achieving what the powerhouse Real Madrid couldn't accomplish. 

The Catalan underdogs will visit Rayo's Vallecas stadium, merely days after Carlo Ancelotti's squad was held to a goalless draw at the Santiago Bernabeu by their local rivals.

Girona has the opportunity to widen their lead at the summit of the table, extending it by five points over second-placed Real Madrid and a seven-point gap over third-placed Barcelona, before the established Spanish giants take to the field.

While Real Madrid hosts Valencia on Saturday night and Barcelona, still reeling from their recent Champions League defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk, welcome Alaves on Sunday, there is growing speculation in Spain about whether Girona can replicate the extraordinary feat achieved by English club Leicester City in the 2016 Premier League season, when they remarkably secured the title.

Promoted in 2022, Girona is only in their fourth-ever season in Spain's top flight. Being part of the City Football Group, the UAE-based parent company of Manchester City, which acquired the club in 2017, provides them with an edge over some other teams in the league.

Nonetheless, key figures at Girona, such as coach Michel Sanchez and sporting director Quique Carcel, are cautious and maintaining a grounded approach despite their team's success.

"Internally, we are very clear that what Leicester did is a very big feat and obviously these are very nice situations," Carcel told AFP this week.

"But we don't think about that. We know the reality that we are in. We know that here, Barca, Madrid and Atletico Madrid are clubs that are very big and have a very high budget."

Michel has stated before that Girona isn't in direct competition with the prominent top three teams but rather is contending against the following tier of teams, including Real Sociedad and Real Betis.

"When the league starts, you never know which teams are going to be at the top," Carcel continued.

"Obviously, Barca, Madrid and Atletico Madrid, but for example Sevilla or Villarreal are teams that you thought would be at the top and now they are at the bottom.

"We have to take it game by game. Now we play against Rayo and we don't have to think much beyond that. I think it's a tough, difficult game against a team that drew at Madrid."

Girona has been the most prolific team in the top division, scoring 29 goals in 12 matches, resulting in 10 victories and just one loss. However, Rayo Vallecano demonstrates a strong defensive record.

Rayo has maintained six clean sheets, which equals the highest number in LaLiga, shared with Madrid and Barca.

Girona's playmaker, Aleix Garcia, shoulders the responsibility of unlocking opposition defenses, a role he has consistently performed with remarkable quality throughout this season.

The midfielder initially joined Girona on loan from Manchester City in 2017. Subsequently, he made moves to Dinamo Bucharest and Eibar before returning to Catalonia.

"Aleix has made a very big evolution, five or six years ago he was coming from City, he was a bit immature in football terms," added Carcel.

"I think he's matured a lot; he's had to go to smaller leagues like Romania and come back here to play.

"Now he is in a process of maturation, and I think he is a leader on the pitch and that he is growing a lot in personality, leadership and it is showing."

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