More than half a year after the relegation of Girona, a LaLiga club will visit Montilivi again on Wednesday evening when the Catalans take on Villarreal in the sixteenth finals of the Copa del Rey. It promises to be an exciting competition!
Until recently, Girona seemed to be growing rapidly in a stable LaLiga club, but a dramatic second half of the season threw a spanner in the works last year. Halfway through the season the Catalans were still in the left-hand row and were even allowed to dream of European football, but the red and white ended up under the relegation line. Also in the Segunda Division, with seventh place, it does not really go well, although the team is still fully in the race for a return to the highest level.
Girona is partly owned by the wealthy City Group, the same owner as Manchester City, among others. This is one of the reasons why the club still has excellent players like Johan Mojica, Pablo Maffeo and Christian Stuani – all of whom are easy to join in LaLiga. The upcoming cup match against Villarreal therefore promises to be very interesting, although trainer Pep Lluis has already told Marti that the competition has priority. “But that does not mean that we will throw it in the Copa del Rey,” the coach said. “If our supporters are behind us, we can make it a memorable cup evening together.”
With a provisional ninth place in La Liga, Villarreal threatens to compete alongside European football, so the Copa del Rey could be a much-needed lifebuoy for the yellow shirts. Trainer Javi Calleja cannot afford to let the Spanish cup tournament run, though in the previous rounds his team against third-class players Cornella and Orihuela needed penalties and an extension to keep her cup aspirations alive. So it is high time the coach shook his players awake.
Villarreal is of course a favorite on Wednesday evening, but has major offensive problems. Karl Toko Ekambi was recently sold to Olympique Lyon, and grandson thief Gerard Moreno is in the rag basket. The 33-year-old Colombian Carlos Bacca is therefore the only pure center striker that is still available, but the former striker of AC Milan, Seville and Club Brugge, for example, has already been well past his heyday. The preparation is not going smoothly either, because due to inclement weather, Villarreal has decided to travel by train to Girona instead of the plane.