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Graham Hunter on Girona: Catalan club in shock rise to top of La Liga

bet365's Steve Freeth speaks to Spanish football expert Graham Hunter about Catalan side Girona's epic start to the season which sees them sitting top of La Liga after 13 matches played.

Beginning the season as rank outsiders to win La Liga at 1000/1, Girona are now in to 20/1 to shock the footballing world and win the Spanish top flight after an incredible start to the campaign which has seen them lose just one of their opening 13 games.

Expertly managed by the impressive Michel, Girona have taken their opponents in La Liga by surprise with their swashbuckling, front foot style of play - with the Catalans' total of 31 goals scored this season the highest in the division.

As close neighbours of the mighty Barcelona, it seems unthinkable that Girona - whose Estadi Montilivi home has a capacity of under 15,000 - could end the season as Catalonia's leading club.
 

Total Football

Having scored 31 goals and conceded 16 in La Liga so far this term, entertainment is guaranteed when Girona are in action.

Lining up in a cavalier 3-4-3 formation, Girona look to throw players forward at will and overwhelm the opposition in forward areas, which makes them both difficult to contain in an attacking sense but vulnerable to counter-attacks.

Playing with speed and verve, Girona have emerged into arguably the most fun team to watch in Spain, with the Catalans having scored at least two goals in eight of their 13 La Liga matches so far this season.
 

Masterful Michel

In 48-year-old manager Michel, Girona are led by a coach with a fast-growing reputation, with the Spaniard's ability to inspire this run of results whilst endorsing a progressive style of play drawing widespread admiration.

A former player and manager at Rayo Vallecano, Michel took over as Girona's manager in July 2021, leading the club to promotion to La Liga via the play-offs in his first season before steering them to a 10th placed finish in the top flight in 2022/23.

A manager with obsessive attention to detail, Michel is also an excellent communicator who has taken time to learn Catalan despite originally hailing from Madrid.

Should Girona's form continue under Michel's auspices it would come as no surprise if top clubs across the continent begin to take interest in his services, including Premier League giants Manchester City who are affiliates of the Catalans as part of the City Group network.
 

Hidden gems

Girona's underdog story in La Liga has drawn inevitable comparisons with Leicester City's legendary class of 2015/16 who sensationally claimed the Premier League title, and just as the Foxes were inspired by the previously little-known talents including Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante, the Catalans have a number of hidden gems of their own.

Midfielder Aleix Garcia has arguably been Girona's player of the season so far, with the ex-Man City defensive midfielder recently handed his senior international debut for Spain in light of his classy performances in La Liga.

Fleet-footed Brazilian winger Savio has been another standout, with the Troyes loanee having registered four goals and four assists in the Spanish top flight so far this term.

Michel will be desperate to hold of his key men in the January transfer window to ensure his charges suffer no marked drop off in the second half of the campaign.

Girona, who have never competed in European competition before, are currently odds-on at 8/15 to finish in the Top 4 and qualify for the Champions League.
 

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