La Liga 2023-24 title race: Real Madrid, Girona in end-to-end battle; Barcelona, Atletico Madrid take up supporting position


The 2023-24 La Liga has turn into an epic battle, and will go down in historical past as one of the vital intense title races within the competitors. On Saturday, followers noticed Rodrygo proceed his goal-scoring type as he scored to assist Real Madrid seal a 2-0 win over Granada. The win was essential because it helped them reclaim their lead in La Liga from minnows Girona. Girona grabbed an inspiring 2-1 win in opposition to Valencia to maneuver briefly on prime of the desk, however Madrid have overtaken them on aim distinction.

Girona’s Spanish midfielder David Lopez fights for the ball with Real Madrid’s English midfielder Jude Bellingham throughout their La Liga match on the Montilivi stadium.(AFP)

It was end-to-end motion on Gameweek 15 as Barcelona grabbed an important 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid on Sunday, courtesy of an beautiful dink from Joao Felix. The Portugal worldwide, who’s on mortgage from Atletico, helped Barcelona reclaim third place from Diego Simeone’s facet, and now path leaders Real Madrid and second-placed Girona by 4 factors.

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Jude Bellingham in dreamland

Jude Bellingham arrived in Madrid amid a lot pomp and fan-fare. The La Liga facet signed him on a six-year contract, and Borussia Dortmund obtained a base switch payment of 103 million euros, with potential to rise by 30 %, to roughly 133.9 million euros resulting from add-ons. The switch additionally noticed a sell-on clause via which Birmingham City earned 6 million kilos. The bombshell transfer noticed him turn into the sixth Englishman to affix Real Madrid within the skilled and referred to as it his ‘proudest day’.

Jude Bellingham celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League first round group C football match between Real Madrid CF and SSC Naples at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.(AFP)
Jude Bellingham celebrates scoring his crew’s second aim in the course of the UEFA Champions League first spherical group C soccer match between Real Madrid CF and SSC Naples on the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.(AFP)

Ahead of his switch to Real Madrid, followers and pundits already knew about Bellingham’s goal-scoring talents. But since his arrival to Spain, he has taken it a notch greater and has hammered 11 objectives in 15 La Liga matches. In the method, he has damaged numerous information, belonging to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. Carlo Ancelotti’s utilization of the Englishman within the central attacking midfielder position has reaped dividends. The credit score additionally goes to the previous Dortmund man, who has actually labored on his runs into the field, and on this skillset is getting nearer to the skills of England legend Frank Lampard.

Such has been Bellingham’s affect in Madrid, that he’s already being considered England’s predominant participant for UEFA Euro 2024. The continental occasion can be held in Germany subsequent yr and it might be an enormous benefit for Bellingham resulting from his time with Dortmund. Such is his affect within the taking part in XI, that Real Madrid are one of many contenders to clinch the Champions League title this season. If they fail to assert the La Liga trophy, Bellingham’s first season in Spain can be an utter failure.

Girona’s tactical mastermind Michel

Former Rayo Vallecano supervisor Michel has been scripting historical past since his arrival to Catalonian membership Girona. A former participant, Michel started his managerial profession with Rayo Vallecano, and so they achieved promotion to the highest division beneath him, within the 2017-18 season as champions. Meanwhile, he additionally achieved lots with Huesca, who have been demoted to the second tier on his arrival in 2019. Under him, they gained promotion via prime spot.

In his first season with Girona, the membership achieved promotion in his first season after a 3-1 victory in opposition to CD Tenerife within the playoff last. Meanwhile, additionally they reached the final 16 of Copa del Rey, the place they crashed to a 2-1 loss in opposition to his former facet Rayo. In May 2022, he signed a brand new contract with the membership, with the deal ending in 2024.

In the continuing 2023-24 season, Girona have been the most effective groups in Spain. Michel’s tactical acumen has revealed a brand new dimension within the membership’s tactical method to matches, additionally influenced by City Football Group, who personal a stake within the membership and are the homeowners of Manchester City. Such has been his affect, that Michel can be being considered Pep Guardiola’s successor at The Etihad.

Girona's Spanish coach Michel (R) and players celebrate at the end of the La Liga match against Valencia CF at the Montilivi stadium.(AFP)
Girona’s Spanish coach Michel (R) and gamers have a good time on the finish of the La Liga match in opposition to Valencia CF on the Montilivi stadium.(AFP)

During the continuing season, Girona have misplaced solely as soon as in 15 La Liga fixtures, successful 12 video games and drawing twice. In their final 5 video games, they’ve remained unbeaten with 4 wins and a draw. Their tactical method has seen a shift from modern-day ways, and Michel has been taking inspiration from Guardiola’s tiki-taka and Brazil interim head coach and Fluminense head coach Fernando Diniz’s relationism type.

Over the course of their 15 league video games, Michel has applied a affected person passing method, the place Girona find yourself taking part in with their opposition with good passes and triangles. Also whereas attacking, Girona have a really distinctive formation, the place most gamers crowd up in areas the place the ball is. On additional evaluation, such a method makes it simpler for Girona to steal the ball from their opponents and type fast, slick passes because of the presence of loads of teammates within the particular zone.

The presence of Ukrainian striker Artem Dovbyk has helped them get the objectives, particularly with the rising age of Christian Stuani. During this season, Stuani has primarily been on the bench, with Dovbyk beginning principally. The Ukrainian is a pure goal-scoring poacher, who’s highly effective within the field and possesses good ball management and method. During the continuing season, he has scored seven objectives and can be seeking to enhance his tally.

Meanwhile, defensive midfielder Aleix Garcia is Girona’s heartbeat for this season. The Manchester City youth product is their veteran, and he takes up the place between his facet’s backline and midfield. His expertise turns out to be useful, and he units the tempo to their attacking strikes. Such is his affect this season that he additionally made his maiden Spain debut this yr, on the age of 26.

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid supporting acts

Defending champions Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez has instantly come to a standstill. In their final 5 matches, they’ve misplaced as soon as, gained thrice and drawn a sport. Xavi hasn’t been capable of finding the right alternative for Ousmane Dembele, whose affect within the last third was essential for Barcelona.

Meanwhile, the administration anticipated Lionel Messi to affix in the summertime switch window, however they could not afford his wage, particularly with the presence of Dembele, who was incomes an enormous wage. At that time, Dembele did not wish to depart the Catalans, in order that they determined to not pursue Messi anymore. But the Frenchman had different plans, and took a u-turn on his determination days later, becoming a member of Ligue 1 giants PSG in a shock transfer. To make issues worse, by that point Messi joined David Beckham co-owned Inter Miami.

Joao Felix scores during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.(AFP)
Joao Felix scores in the course of the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid on the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.(AFP)

The accountability for objectives has fallen on Robert Lewandowski, who has scored seven instances. But the dearth of inventive assist has seen it fade away in lots of video games. Meanwhile, the arrival of Joao Cancelo on mortgage from Manchester City and Joao Felix from Atletico, gave Barca followers loads of hope in the beginning. But their affect has additionally been erratic, with Felix lately scoring the winner in opposition to his dad or mum membership Atletico.

Meanwhile, Simeone’s Atletico have been having an erratic season. Antoine Griezmann has rediscovered himself this yr, and so has Alvaro Morata, however the crew has been misplaced thrice already this season. They sit in fourth place with 31 factors in 14 fixtures, filled with 4 wins and a draw. In their final 5 fixtures, they’ve misplaced twice, and gained thrice.

With Matchday 16 scheduled to start on December 9, all eyes can be on Real Madrid, who will tackle Real Betis away from house. Meanwhile, Atletico face Almeria on December 10. The star attraction can be Barcelona taking over Girona, and will probably be an enormous take a look at for Michel. A win will show their credentials as title contenders, however a defeat for Girona will break up the title race huge open.

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