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La Liga: Barcelona and Girona Will Duel for the Best of the Rest

With Real Madrid seemingly running away with the 2023-24 La Liga title, attention has turned to the battle for second place between Barcelona and Girona, as well as the fight for the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Los Blancos have an eight-point lead, and they need a few more positive La Liga 2024 results to bring the trophy back to the Bernabeu, although they’re in for a brutal stretch this April because they have so many games to cover.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have improved to second place after being in the shadows behind Girona and Real Madrid for much of the season. However, the Blaugrana only have a two-point lead over Girona.

It’s going down to the wire with eight matchdays left, and we’re here to discuss what lies ahead.


Barcelona are peaking at the right time

My SBOTOP colleague Stuart pointed out that Barca are looking upwards, and it has been that way for a while now because they haven’t lost a single game since their 5-3 defeat against Villarreal last January. In their last 11 games across all competitions, the Blaugrana have recorded eight wins and three draws.

Despite a huge gap between them and table leaders Real Madrid, Barcelona still have a puncher’s chance to win the La Liga championship, although it is not in their full control.

Barcelona are favoured in the La Liga 2024 odds to beat Cadiz in their next La Liga game, but after that, two of their next three matches are against Real Madrid and Girona, to whom they lost in their previous meetings.

Sandwiched in between those games is their two-legged tie against PSG in the Champions League quarter-finals, which can go either way.

Another point of emphasis for the Blaugrana is the continuous development of their precocious youngsters, as Fermin Lopez, Lamine Yamal, Pedri, Gavi, Marc Guiu, and Vitor Roque are all crucial to the team’s long-term project, even as they go on without Xavi moving forward.

With this being Xavi’s last hurrah after he confirmed that he’ll leave the coaching helm after this season, Barcelona will aim to make these last few matches count and hopefully bring home a trophy, either in the Champions League or here in La Liga.


Girona still overachieved this season

Girona are sitting behind Barcelona in the La Liga table with two points
Sevilla coach Enrique Sanchez Flores and Girona manager Michel talk together before the La Liga match

Even if they ultimately fall short of winning their first-ever La Liga title, Girona can give themselves a huge pat on the back for being in the title mix in the first place because they never should’ve been in it to begin with.

Earlier this campaign, Michel Sanchez and his men were at the top of the Spanish top-flight standings, but the law of averages has caught up with them, and they’ve had a mixed bag of results in their last five league games (W3, L2).

Artem Dovbyk has been the standout player for Girona with 16 goals and five assists this season, and he is supported by the likes of Savio, Cristhian Stuani, Viktor Tsygankov, Portu, and Aleix Garcia, among others.

Following their 3-2 win over Real Betis, thanks to the late heroics of Cristhian Stuani, two of their next four games are against Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, while the rest of their opponents are outside the top five.

Girona can go on a nine-game unbeaten run to close out the 2023-24 campaign, but it might not be enough to knock Real Madrid off their perch. However, securing their first-ever Champions League appearance for next season is already a huge win in itself for Michel Sanchez and his boys.


Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao battle for crucial points

The final eight matchdays are going to be pivotal because only two points separate Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.

Recent form is similar for these two teams, as both have won twice, lost twice, and drawn once in their last five games, although Atletico Madrid are coming off a win while Athletic Bilbao are fresh from a loss.

But in terms of schedule, Athletic Bilbao have it easier because Atletico Madrid are also competing in the Champions League quarter-finals against Borussia Dortmund.

Fatigue may set in for Los Rojiblancos since they will play three games in six games next week, with two against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-finals and one against the third-seeded Girona.

And then there’s the crunch match against Athletic Bilbao on April 28. If Athletic Bilbao beat Atletico Madrid for the fourth consecutive time this season, there’s a huge possibility that Los Rojiblancos will cede their fourth spot to Los Leones.


 

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