La Liga: Athletic Club take on Girona FC in a duel at the top end of table

Madrid (Spain), Feb 19 (IANS): A place in the Champions League will be at stake when Girona, the breakout team of the year, take on Athletic Bilbao in a La Liga clash at the San Mames in Bilbao on Tuesday. The big match of the week in La Liga will be a duel between two clubs who dream of playing in the Champions League next season and who are challenging the competition’s big names.

Girona FC visit one of the most legendary stadiums of Spanish football, San Mames, to write another chapter in their story. On the other hand, Athletic Club want to consolidate their place in the European positions during the second half of the season. With both teams high on hope, the clash between two attacking, fast-paced and quality teams promise to deliver entertainment and a lot of nerves too, because the points at stake are so valuable.

Girona FC hope to become the first Spanish team to debut in the Champions League since Málaga CF in the 2012/13 season. More than a decade later, another club is poised to enter Europe’s top club competition for the first time.

With 56 points from 24 league games, many would already pencil Míchel’s side into the top four, but this clash against Athletic Club at San Mames could really be the one to move them closer to this objective. With a Girona FC win in Bilbao, the points gap between these two clubs might grow too large.

However, Ernesto Valverde’s side is on an upward trend, enjoying one of those seasons where everything seems to go well. They’re into the Copa del Rey semifinals, holding an advantage after the first leg against Atlético de Madrid, and want to add a ticket to next season’s Champions League.

They are closer than they have been in recent years and a win against Girona FC, as well as keeping them within touching distance of Diego Simeone’s side and FC Barcelona, would also be a setback for Míchel’s squad, who are perhaps not as used to fighting for these objectives as the other teams.

The first encounter between these clubs this season ended 1-1, so the result of the San Mames match will also be important in deciding the tiebreaker, should they finish level on points at the end of the season. At the Estadi Montilivi, it was Viktor Tsygankov and Inaki Williams who scored, and these are two of the players who stand out in the statistical rankings, along with several of their teammates.

Looking at the league ranking for shots, Inaki Williams is in first position and Artem Dovbyk is in fifth. In terms of dribbling, the leader is Savio, with Nico Williams second, while Savio is also the leader in assists, with the youngest of the Williams brothers just behind and on the same number of assists as Yan Couto. As for goalkeeping, Paulo Gazzaniga and Unai Simón are two of the standout names in the competition and among those fighting for the Zamora Trophy.

What happens in Bilbao will not be definitive, as there are still many rounds to go to decide which four Spanish teams will finish in the Champions League qualification places, but this direct duel between Valverde’s and Míchel’s sides could be one of the most interesting of the season.


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Title: La Liga: Athletic Club take on Girona FC in a duel at the top end of table

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