MX23RW : Friday, May 24 18:24:53| >> :600:52521312:52521312:
Sep 23, 2017 at 7.45pm UK at ​Montilivi, Girona
Attendance: 13,305
FT(HT: 0-1)
Benitez (17' og.), Iraizoz (48' og.), Suarez (69')

Preview: Girona vs. Barcelona

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Catalan derby between Girona and Barcelona in La Liga.

Barcelona will attempt to continue their 100% start to the 2017-18 La Liga campaign when they travel to Catalan rivals Girona on Saturday night.

The match will mark the first ever meeting between the teams, with the White and Reds enjoying their first campaign in Spain's top flight.


General view of Estadi Montilivi, home of Girona FC

Girona ensured that they would play La Liga football for the first time in their history after finishing second in the Segunda Division last season.

A third-tier outfit as recently as 2008, Girona consistently finished in the bottom half of the Segunda between 2008 and 2012, before pushing for a spot in La Liga over the last couple of years. After two fourth-place finishes and third in 2014-15, Girona posted second last season to earn a spot in Spain's top flight.

Pablo Machin's side opened their 2017-18 campaign with an impressive 2-2 draw at home to Atletico Madrid, before picking up their first ever La Liga three points at home to Malaga before the international break.

Then came back-to-back defeats to Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla, but Girona did pick up a point in a goalless draw at Leganes on Wednesday night. As a result, a total of five points has left the club in 14th position in Spain's top flight.

Girona actually spent more than £4m on Middlesbrough centre-back Bernardo Espinosa in the summer, while Manchester City's Pablo Maffeo and Stoke City's Marc Muniesa also joined the newly-promoted outfit on loan.

This weekend will mark a historic match against Barcelona, and it would be some story if the newly-promoted outfit became the first team to take points off the league leaders this season.

Recent form: DWLLD


Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates scoring during his side's Champions League group game against Juventus at the Camp Nou on September 12, 2017© Offside

Barcelona stretched their 100% start to the new La Liga season to five matches with a thumping 6-1 win over Eibar at Camp Nou on Tuesday night.

Questions were raised when Ernesto Valverde's side lost 5-1 to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup last month, but the Catalan giants have been in wonderful form since then – winning all six of their competitive fixtures.

Indeed, Barcelona started the new league season with back-to-back 2-0 wins over Real Betis and Alaves, before putting five unanswered goals past Catalan rivals Espanyol after the international break.

Then came a 3-0 victory over Juventus in their Champions League group opener, before winning 2-1 at Getafe on September 16. As mentioned, Valverde's side will enter this weekend's match off the back of a 6-1 win over Eibar.

Lionel Messi struck four times against Eibar to move onto nine league goals for the season, while Paulinho and Denis Suarez added to their strikes against Getafe to ensure that Barcelona would stretch their advantage at the summit.

The Catalan giants top the table on 15 points – seven points clear of the champions Real Madrid, who suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to Real Betis on Wednesday night.

In terms of what is ahead for Barcelona, they will continue their Champions League group campaign with a trip to Sporting Lisbon next Wednesday, before hosting Las Palmas in La Liga at the start of next month.

Arguably, Barcelona's first serious test of the new league season does not arrive until October 14, when they face a trip to Atletico Madrid's new stadium. By that point, Valverde's side might well have seven league victories behind them.

Recent form: WWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW

Team News

Luis Suarez in action for Barcelona during their La Liga clash with Granada at the Camp Nou on October 29, 2016© SilverHub

Espinosa is expected to return to the Girona XI after starting Wednesday's goalless draw with Leganes on the bench.

Summer arrival Cristhian Stuani should retain his spot in the final third alongside on-loan Man City attacker Olarenwaju Kayode, although Spanish forward Portu is pushing for a spot after coming off the bench last time out.

Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez were among those to sit out the Eibar clash, but all three should return to the Barcelona XI this weekend.

Paulinho could also retain his midfield position with Andres Iniesta rested, while Gerard Deulofeu should keep his spot in the final third alongside Messi and Suarez.

Ivan Rakitic and Sergi Roberto, however, are also options in central midfield as Valverde looks to shuffle his pack once again.

Girona possible starting lineup:
Iraizoz; Alcala, Muniesa, Espinosa; Maffeo, Pons, Granell, Mojica; Kayode, Garcia, Stuani

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Umtiti, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Paulinho; Deulofeu, Luis Suarez, Messi

Head To Head

Saturday will mark the first ever meeting between the Catalan rivals, although Girona did beat Barcelona B 4-2 when they last clashed in May 2015.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Girona 0-3 Barcelona

It will be a special occasion for Girona and their supporters, but it is very difficult to imagine the home side picking up a positive result this weekend.

Barcelona are absolutely flying at the moment, and we are backing the league leaders to stretch their 100% start to six matches.

Who will win Saturday's La Liga clash between Girona and Barcelona?

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Ernesto Valverde head coach of Athletic Bilbao during the first leg of UEFA Champions League qualifying play-offs round match between SSC Napoli and Athletic Club on August 19, 2014
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