Barcelona take on Girona in the Catalan derby this weekend and will be out to avenge their defeat from earlier this season as both sides battle for second place in LaLiga, says Xavi.

Girona won 4-2 in Barcelona when the teams met in December, which put Michel's side top of the standings.

Although Real Madrid now look set to win the title and Barca have moved into second, Xavi still wants payback against their neighbours in this away clash.

"There is no challenge with Michel, but there is a challenge of revenge for the first half of the season," Barca boss Xavi said at his pre-match press conference.

"They were very forceful, we didn't adjust well, we didn't defend well in the box. It's not a personal challenge but as a team."

Girona, the season's surprise package, come into Saturday's home game on the back of two wins, and a victory would see them leapfrog Barca and move into second place as they look to secure Champions League football for the first time.

"A vital match. Their confidence is through the roof," Xavi said.

"We have to congratulate them, their season is magnificent, at an extraordinary level, Champions League level.

"We were bad in defending their team in the home game, but these are situations that we have analysed."

Girona have a 13-point advantage over Athletic Bilbao who are fifth, and their Champions League place will already be safe by the time they face Barcelona if Bilbao lose at Getafe on Friday.

"It's not going to change much, they'll go out to win, they want to be second and there is a lot more at stake," Xavi said.

"Their mentality will not change even if Athletic fails. We're up against a team that has done a lot of good things to get to where it is. They'll be second if they deserve it.

"It is a source of pride for Catalan football that Girona are in the Champions League and have also been candidates to win the title."

Barcelona, meanwhile, can keep their slim title hopes mathematically alive with a victory, although the coach spoke only of the importance of finishing second, while refusing to speak of the future.

Last week, Xavi reversed his decision to leave the club at the end of the season, but he is concentrating on the present, and that also goes for the future of players such as Robert Lewandowski.

"We value Robert's presence in the team very much and we will decide on his future at the end of the season," Xavi said.

"This is not the time to talk about futures, we are playing for second place."

Real Madrid, who host Cadiz on Saturday, are top with 84 points and have five games remaining. Barcelona have 73 and Girona are on 71 points.

It was a tale of three penalties as Girona went second in LaLiga with a 2-0 win over Las Palmas on Saturday, edging closer to a Champions League place for next season.

Artem Dovbyk made sure of the win from the spot in the second half, after David Lopez had put them in front in the 26th minute.

Lopez was on hand to blast into the roof of the net after Alvaro Valles saved Dovbyk's first penalty of the game, conceded by Las Palmas captain Kirian Rodriguez.

Las Palmas had earlier squandered a spot-kick of their own, with Paulo Gazzaniga springing to his right to push Sandro Ramirez's strike away.

Girona now possess a 13-point buffer to fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao, who have just 18 points to play for, so it appears a mere matter of time before Michel's side secure Champions League qualification.

Data Debrief: Dovbyk in fine company

Dovbyk wasn't deterred after seeing his first-half penalty saved, his second attempt from 12 yards finding the bottom-right corner to make the points safe for Girona.

He has now scored 19 goals in just 31 appearances in LaLiga. Only four players have previously reached that figure in fewer outings in the competition – Cristiano Ronaldo (23), Radamel Falcao (24), Robert Lewandowski (28) and Julio Baptista (29).

 

Girona guaranteed they will be playing European football next season with a 4-1 thumping of struggling Cadiz in LaLiga.

After last weekend’s defeat by Atletico Madrid, third-placed Girona moved seven points clear of the capital side ahead of their meeting with Alaves on Sunday.

They took the lead in the ninth minute, Eric Garcia heading in Savio’s cross, and Yangel Herrera then saw a shot saved before Ivan Martin doubled the advantage with 22 minutes gone with a shot into the bottom corner.

Maxi Gomez had a header blocked as Cadiz sought a way back into the match but Girona nearly found a third just before half-time, Savio hitting the bar with a shot from outside the box.

The visitors, who are six points from safety, made changes for the second half and they came out positively, Chris Ramos twice going close while Lucas Pires also had a shot saved.

But Girona added a third in the 71st minute through Artem Dovbyk, whose shot found the bottom corner.

Cadiz kept pushing and got their goal in the 81st minute when Gonzalo Escalante found the net from close range following a corner.

But a minute later Girona struck again, this time Portu adding the final flourish on a historic night for the Catalan side.

Girona lost further ground in the LaLiga title race as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Getafe at the Estadio Coliseum.

Jesus Santiago rounded off a well-worked move in the 33rd minute to score the only goal of the game for Getafe, who moved into the top half of the table with victory.

Leading scorer Artem Dovbyk missed a handful of chances in the second half for Girona and defeats means the Catalan surprise packages are now 10 points behind leaders Real Madrid following their win at Osasuna on Saturday.

Getafe had their hearts in their mouths in the 11th minute when the referee was sent to the VAR screen after Omar Alderete pulled Cristian Portu back on the last line of defence, but a yellow card was deemed sufficient punishment.

Chances were at a premium during the opening stages but Getafe forward Mason Greenwood chanced his arm from 25 yards with an effort that flew comfortably wide midway through the half.

However, Getafe would break the deadlock soon after the half-hour mark thanks to Santiago. Ilaix Moriba’s pass unlocked the Girona defence and found teenager Santiago who smashed his shot across goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga and into the net.

Girona, who had lost four of their previous five away games, looked for a rapid response and their biggest chance of the half came just before the break when Portu smashed an effort towards goal. The shot looked to be heading in via a deflection only for Getafe to scramble it away.

Girona started the second period the stronger of the two sides and had the first opening of the half as Dovbyk picked up possession outside box before seeing his shot flash a whisker wide of the target.

The visitors were starting to put the pressure on in search of an equaliser and Savio’s clever low drive into the box was diverted wide by Dovbyk.

Getafe looked to respond and were awarded a free-kick 30 yards out. The distance did not deter Oscar Rodriguez, who fancied his chances, but he blasted his shot straight into the grasp of Gazzaniga.

Getafe had a better chance to double their lead when a cross fell to the unmarked Moriba inside the box but he sent his header wide of the target.

Time was running out for Girona and Dovbyk mustered another opportunity for himself when he cut into the box but fired straight at keeper as the score remained 1-0.

All the chances were falling to Dovbyk and this time Savio’s inswinging cross found the Ukraine international, but his header was saved by David Soria who ensured Getafe held on to claim their first win in five games.

Fine finishes from Portu and Savio sent Girona back above Barcelona into second place in the LaLiga table courtesy of a battling win over Osasuna.

Portu’s sweet first-half strike and a deft toe-poke from Savio sealed a 2-0 victory at the Municipal de Montilivi Stadium in which Michel’s men created enough chances to have won far more comfortably.

Girona went ahead with 13 minutes gone when Ukraine international Viktor Tsygankov’s reverse pass allowed striker Portu to burst clear and fire low across keeper Sergio Herrera and open the scoring.

Striker Ante Budimir headed high over from a promising position and former Girona full-back Johan Mojica dragged a 30th-minute shot from distance just wide as the visitors responded.

Osasuna’s Jon Moncayola curled an attempt wide from 22 yards seven minutes before the break with the hosts struggling to build upon their early breakthrough, and they headed for the dressing room still only a goal to the good.

Girona striker Artem Dovbyk fired wastefully wide three minutes after the restart after Portu and Tsygankov had combined to set him up, and he only just failed to get on the end of Miguel Gutierrez’s 53rd-minute cross.

Defender Jorge Herrando blocked efforts from Tsygankov and Daley Blind in quick succession and the home side were incensed not to be awarded a penalty after Savio went to ground under Alejandro Cateno’s clumsy challenge, with VAR official Carlos del Cerro Grande backing referee Mateo Busquets’ original decision.

Herrera clawed Dovbyk’s 64th-minute header off the line with Girona pressing for a second, and substitute Cristhian Stuani passed up a glorious opportunity eight minutes from time when he ballooned a shot high over after going one on one with the keeper.

Savio saw an 85th-minute strike ruled out for a foul during the build-up, but was celebrating within seconds when he ran on to Aleix Garcia’s back-heel to cement the win.

Girona boosted their hopes of sealing a Champions League qualifying berth as they returned to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano.

Viktor Tsygankov’s effort early in the second half and two injury-time strikes from Savio ensured the early LaLiga pace-setters snapped a run of two straight losses and leapfrogged Barcelona back into second place.

The ailing visitors, who went into the game without a win in six, had their chances but had Pep Chavarria sent off for two yellow cards in the 76th minute and slid to another disappointing defeat.

Girona had shown few early signs of ending their poor run of form with Paulo Gazzaniga called into action early as he raced from goal to deny Rayo striker Alvaro Garcia a one-on-one.

The hosts gradually improved and came close through Yangel Herrera who had a good shot blocked in the box, before Artem Dovbyk missed a golden opportunity when he was found unmarked in front of goal.

Tsygankov brought a fine save out of Rayo keeper Stole Dimitrievski in the 51st minute but notched the opener moments later when he swept home from a neat cut-back in the box by Miguel Gutierrez.

Dovbyk missed another glorious chance to add Girona’s second from point-blank range and it almost cost the hosts as the excellent Miguel Crespo played in Garcia who hit a poor shot that was easily saved by Gazzaniga.

Chavarria was dismissed for two yellow cards in as many minutes as Rayo’s frustrations began to tell, and after Dimitrievski saved well to deny Cristhian Stuani, Savio put some gloss on the final scoreline with a well-taken double in added time.

Girona’s hopes of reducing the deficit to LaLiga leaders Real Madrid were dashed by a 3-2 defeat to Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames Stadium.

The surprise early-season pace-setters had only themselves to blame after two defensive blunders handed the home side the chance to stretch their unbeaten league run to four games.

The visitors, who remain six points behind Real Madrid, got off to a nightmare start when a rash cross-field ball by Aleix Garcia fell to Alejandro Berenguer, whose cool strike gave Bilbao the lead with just over two minutes on the clock.

Girona hit back to level when Viktor Tsygankov turned the ball home from close range four minutes after the interval, but moments later Berenguer grabbed his second after a mistake from Miguel Gutierrez on the right flank.

Inaki Williams made up for a series of missed early opportunities when he fired home from the centre of the box on the hour mark to move the home side to the brink of victory.

But Girona showed some of the fight that has served them so well this season as they reduced the deficit to 3-2 on 75 minutes when Eric Garcia met a cross into the box.

And the visitors came agonisingly close to pulling level five minutes into injury time when Savio failed with his initial effort only for the ball to fall to team-mate Jhon Solis, whose shot on the rebound was brilliantly blocked on the line by Bilbao defender Daniel Vivian.

 

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Jude Bellingham made it 20 goals for the season as he and Vinicius Junior teamed up to put Girona to the sword and send Real Madrid five points clear at the top of the LaLiga table.

The England midfielder scored twice with both set up by Vinicius, who had opened the scoring before Rodrygo wrapped up a 4-0 win with a fine run and finish. Substitute Joselu also missed a late penalty.

It was just surprise package Girona’s second defeat of the league campaign, with the first also coming at the hands of Carlo Ancelotti’s men, and it was every bit as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests.

With visiting head coach Michel banned from the touchline following his dismissal for leaving his technical area during last weekend’s draw with Real Sociedad, and opposite number Ancelotti forced to field a makeshift back four with injuries biting hard into his resources, there was an air of uncertainty around the Bernabeu Stadium as the game kicked off.

However, the fears of the locals were settled within six minutes when Vinicius picked up possession wide on the left, cut inside Ivan Martin and curled an unstoppable right-foot shot across keeper Paulo Gazzaniga and inside the far post.

With Toni Kroos dictating play, Madrid continued to look the more threatening and Girona skipper Juanpe was mightily relieved to concede a free-kick on the edge of the box rather than a penalty after he had rudely interrupted Eduardo Camavinga’s blistering 21st-minute run towards goal.

Federico Valverde curled the resulting set-piece straight into Gazzaniga’s arms, but there was little let-up in the home side’s efforts to build upon their encouraging start.

Bellingham dragged a 32nd-minute shot wide, but made amends within three minutes when he ran on to Vinicius’ superb ball behind Eric Garcia and rounded Gazzaniga to make it 2-0.

Vinicius scuffed wide after being played through as the whistle approached, but the sides headed for the dressing rooms with the hosts very much in the driving seat.

The visitors, who had offered little before the break, returned in determined mood and it took a last-ditch clearance by Ferland Mendy to cut out Miguel Gutierrez’s inviting cross as they finally started to make an impression going forward.

However, their hopes suffered a further blow within nine minutes when Vinicius cut in from the left and saw Gazzaniga parry his shot straight to Bellingham, who tapped into the empty net.

The Englishman’s evening ended prematurely with 57 minutes gone when, having earlier turned an ankle, he was replaced by Brahim Diaz.

His team did not feel his loss, however, and Rodrigo extended their lead within four minutes, accepting Vinicius’ pass before racing away to fire emphatically past Gazzaniga.

It should have been 5-0 at the death, but Joselu struck the post with a penalty awarded for Yan Couto’s foul on Arda Guler.

Real Madrid’s top-of-the-table clash with Girona this weekend will not be a title decider, insists Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti.

LaLiga leaders Real are two points ahead of second-placed Girona, who have defied the odds to emerge as genuine contenders in just their fourth-ever season in the top flight.

Michel’s side would leapfrog Madrid back into pole position with victory at the Bernabeu Stadium, but Ancelotti said Saturday’s showdown will not be decisive.

The Italian told a press conference: “Whoever wins will gain the advantage, but there is still a long way to go in the league.

“Both teams are very well positioned and the game won’t decide the league, but (the winners) will have an advantage over the others.

“I don’t think the league will be decided no matter what happens. Both teams have high points and the sooner we get to 80 points, the sooner we can win the league.

“You don’t win the league with 80 points, but if you get close as soon as possible, you’re very close.”

Girona finished 10th in LaLiga last season after winning promotion via the play-offs under head coach Michel in 2022 and have beaten both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in this campaign.

Ancelotti said: “It will be a demanding match against a team that has done better than everyone else, including Real Madrid.

“It’s going to be tough, they’re doing very well. We have a lot of respect for them, while we are confident of winning again after drawing.”

Girona boss Michel will be absent from the Bernabeu dugout as he starts a two-match touchline ban after his red card in the closing stages of last week’s 0-0 home draw against Real Sociedad.

The Catalan club will also be without defender Daley Blind and midfielder Yangel Herrera through suspension.

On Michel’s absence, Ancelotti added: “Football is about the players, but the coach’s presence gives confidence to the team.

“However, it’s not a determining factor. It’s not decisive because football is about the players.

“Sometimes we coaches get carried away a bit in protest, but we need a bit more understanding because of the circumstances we’re in.

“A little more understanding could allow him to be at the Bernabeu on Saturday.”

Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger faces a late fitness test after missing last week’s 1-1 derby draw against city rivals Atletico due to a thigh injury.

Vinicius Junior (neck/shoulder) was an unused substitute against Atletico but will be in contention and Ancelotti confirmed defender Nacho (thigh) is hoping to be back for Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 clash in Leipzig.

Girona missed the chance to move to the top of LaLiga after they were held to a goalless draw by Real Sociedad at Estadi Montilivi.

The Catalan club, who are one point behind leaders Real Madrid and play them next week, struggled without top goalscorer Artem Dovbyk who missed the clash with a knee injury.

The hosts almost landed the first blow. A short corner routine caught Sociedad flat-footed but Aleix Garcia’s shot was saved by Alex Remiro.

Girona thought their persistence had paid off but Yangel Herrera’s header was chalked off for offside.

Savio used nice footwork to beat his man before producing a lifted pass, but Herrera drifted into an offside position when he received the ball and Girona were left frustrated.

Minutes later Sociedad also had a goal ruled out. The dangerous Mikel Oyarzabal took advantage of Paulo Gazzaniga’s poor save and tapped home from six yards before the linesman cut his celebrations short.

After the break, the visitors missed the chance of the match. January signing Sheraldo Becker got on the end of a through ball and used his electric pace to beat Daley Blind in a foot race.

The striker powered an effort narrowly wide, injuring himself in the process.

Sociedad were the better team in the second half and Gazzaniga had to bail the hosts out with an acrobatic stop, tipping Brais Mendez’s close-range volley over the crossbar.

Girona reclaimed top spot in La Liga after Portu’s first-half strike was enough to lift them to 1-0 win over struggling Celta Vigo.

The visitors were looking to bounce back from their disappointing Copa Del Rey quarter-final loss to 10-man Mallorca and quickly found themselves on the front foot at Estadio de Balaidos.

While Celta keeper Vicente Guaita had produced some fine saves to prevent his side from falling behind early, there was little he could do when Portu fired home in the 20th minute.

The hosts looked brighter as the break approached, but created little after half-time as their side slumped to another worrying defeat in their relegation battle.

Girona had a chance to take an early lead when Yangel Herrera fired into the side-netting from the edge of the area seconds before the 10-minute mark.

Artem Dovbyk tried next, forcing Celta keeper Guaita to tip over when his nodded effort from Savio’s cross looked destined to dip under the crossbar, and the former Palace stopper was almost immediately called back into action, denying the hosts with a fine save from a corner.

The visitors capitalised on their hosts’ defensive lapses, Renato Tapia struggling to track as Girona carved space deep inside his side’s half and Unai Nunez found himself outsmarted by Miguel Gutierrez, who slipped the ball to Portu.

The winger obliged, patiently edging forward before firing low past Guaita from just outside the six-yard box, and might have doubled the lead had Dovbyk’s cross soon after not narrowly evaded his slide at the far post.

Viktor Tsygankov fired over before Celta finally enjoyed a brief attacking spell, but were denied an equaliser when Paulo Gazzaniga picked a free-kick out of the air, then tipped Jorgen Strand Larsen’s header over the crossbar to preserve the lead.

Celta were settling into the contest, however, and had a golden opportunity when Aleix Garcia lost the ball inside his own half, but Anastasios Douvikas’ resultant effort was disappointingly soft and made easy work for Gazzaniga.

There were few chances for either opponent as the second half got under way and Girona wasted a  promising drive into the area, pinging the ball between players before losing control, while the home support grew restless with the struggling outfit.

Miguel Rodriguez, one of four second-half substitutions for Rafael Benitez, provided a spark when he drove inside the 18-yard box and did well to control the ball under pressure, but was dispossessed before he could attempt a shot.

Guaita saved Garcia’s deflected effort to keep his side in the contest, and while Oscar Mingueza had a half-chance for the hosts it was duly denied by Daley Blind’s block before Gazzaniga was called into a stoppage-time save to seal the victory.

Girona were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in the quarter-finals as the LaLiga leaders fell to a 3-2 defeat at 10-man Real Mallorca.

The hosts took the lead in the 21st minute when Cyle Larin finished from close range having been teed up by Dani Rodriguez.

Mallorca’s advantage was then doubled seven minutes later by a wonder strike from Abdon Prats, who lashed the ball past Juan Carlos from around 25 yards out.

And Javier Aguirre’s side had a third another seven minutes on from that, Prats again the scorer as he converted a penalty following an Antal Yaakobishvili handball.

Girona pulled a goal back midway through the second half when Cristhian Stuani scored a spot-kick awarded after he was fouled by Antonio Raillo, who was given a second yellow card and his marching orders.

As Michel’s visitors looked to continue the fightback, they reduced the deficit further via a Savio finish in the sixth minute of stoppage time, but a last-gasp equaliser proved beyond them.

Artem Dovbyk scored a seven-minute first-half hat-trick to inspire Girona to a thumping 5-1 win over Sevilla in LaLiga which took them back to the top of the table.

Girona moved a point clear of Real Madrid, who have a game in hand, with the capital club beating Almeria 3-2 earlier on Sunday.

Sevilla scored first, but Dovbyk responded with three goals inside the opening 20 minutes before Viktor Tsygankov and Cristhian Stuani sealed a dominant win.

Isaac Romero, who scored twice on his first Sevilla start last week, netted the opener after 10 minutes.

But Ukrainian striker Dovbyk equalised in the 13th minute as he got on the end of Savio’s cross to nod in.

The game two players were involved in Girona’s second two minutes later, Savio slipping in Portu, who cut the ball back for the well-positioned Dovbyk to tap home from close-range.

And Dovbyk completed his treble in the 19th minute.

The striker drove inside from the right, cutting on to his left foot before producing a wonderful driven shot into the bottom right corner.

It took the summer signing’s tally in his debut LaLiga season to 14 goals.

After the break the hosts added a fourth courtesy of Tsygankov in the 56th minute.

Savio ran down the left and his driven pass found Tsygankov in the centre, with the winger finishing first time past Marko Dmitrovic.

Stuani scored in the 89th minute to round off the emphatic win.

Leaders Real Madrid and second-placed Girona remain level on points at the top of LaLiga after both securing victory via late goals on Wednesday.

Real won 1-0 at home against Mallorca, with Antonio Rudiger heading in the only goal in the 78th minute.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men had survived a scare with the visitors hitting the woodwork twice, via Antonio Sanchez and Samu Costa, then did so themselves, with Brahim Diaz heading against a post when looking certain to score, before Rudiger showed greater accuracy.

Girona then kept pace as they emerged triumphant from a thriller, beating Atletico Madrid 4-3 at home thanks to a stoppage-time finish from Ivan Martin.

After Valery’s opener for the home side had been cancelled out by Alvaro Morata, an eventful first half continued with them adding further goals via Savio and Daley Blind.

Morata subsequently made it 3-2 in the 44th minute and completed his hat-trick to draw things level nine minutes into the second half, but Martin then had the final say with a finish into the top corner a minute into time added on at the end.

While Michel’s side join Real on 48 points, Diego Simeone’s Atletico are now 10 points back in third.

There was also a last-gasp winner for Celta Vigo as they came from behind to beat Real Betis 2-1 at home, courtesy of Williot Swedberg’s last-gasp effort.

That moved Celta out of the relegation zone at the expense of Cadiz, who were beaten 2-0 at second-bottom Granada, their first win under Alexander Medina.

Myrto Uzuni and Bryan Zaragoza scored for the hosts either side of Ruben Sobrino being sent off for the visitors as the gap between them reduced to one point.

Ivan Martin’s stoppage-time strike saw Girona beat Atletico Madrid 4-3 in a thriller at the Estadi Municipal de Montilivi to keep pace with Real Madrid at the top of the LaLiga table.

Martin sent the ball into the top corner in the first minute of added time to restore Girona’s advantage after Atletico had fought back from 3-1 down to draw level at 3-3, with Alvaro Morata scoring a hat-trick.

After Morata had cancelled out Valery’s early opener for the hosts, an eventful first half continued with further Girona efforts from Savio and Daley Blind.

Morata reduced the deficit with his second in the 44th minute, before completing his treble in early in the second half – but it was Martin who would have the final say.

Michel’s Girona go back level on points with leaders Real, who beat Mallorca 1-0 earlier on Wednesday, with Diego Simeone’s Atletico 10 points back in third.

Girona took the lead in the second minute through a wonderful finish from Valery, who lashed in from the edge of the box having received the ball from Pablo Torre.

Atletico hit back in the 14th minute as Antoine Griezmann headed a long ball on to Morata and he sent a composed finish past Paulo Gazzaniga.

The visitors were then punished for sloppiness at the back in the 26th minute when Koke was dispossessed just outside his own area by Martin, his shot was parried by Jan Oblak and Savio fired in the loose ball.

And Girona had another after 39 minutes as Aleix Garcia’s cross was helped on by the boot of Artem Dovbyk and Blind was there to tuck the ball home at the far post.

Five minutes later, the goal rush went on with Morata striking again, running on to a pass from Rodrigo De Paul before slotting in.

He then thought he had another goal in first-half stoppage time, only for the effort to be disallowed for offside via VAR.

Atletico subsequently made a strong start to the second half, which included Morata seeing one header saved by Gazzaniga and another go wide.

The former Chelsea man notched his third nine minutes in, lifting a delightful shot beyond Gazzaniga after a great forward burst by De Paul, to bring things all square once more and move to 12 LaLiga goals for the season.

Girona went close to regaining the lead in the 62nd minute as Dovbyk cracked a shot goalwards, with Oblak making a great save to divert the ball wide.

It looked as if the points would be shared, but as stoppage time arrived Martin ensured Girona took all three as he lifted the ball beyond Oblak to seal a memorable victory.

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