Little local joy on football’s return

The presenter of El Punt Avui’s The Week in Football, Barney Griffiths, runs the rule over Catalonia’s leading football clubs as they returned to action in June

The odds of winning this year’s La Liga title are now in Madrid’s favour ESPANYOL ARE ANCHORED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TABLE

Football’s back, though not everyone in Catalonia will be thankful for that. Since the restart in mid-June, Barça have relinquished their lead to Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, Espanyol have fired their manager and Girona were unable to score in their first three attempts after returning to the field of play.


Despite an away win against Mallorca (4-0) and home wins against Leganés (2-0) and Athletic (1-0), two away draws since the restart at Sevilla (0-0) and Celta (2-2) have cost the blaugrana dear and allowed arch rivals Real Madrid to steal a march on them at the top of the table. After winning all their games since returning to action, Zidane’s side now have a two-point lead at the top with six games remaining. Of those six games, only three would appear to offer any threat to the merengues – Athletic and Granada away and Villarreal at home – while Barça’s remaining games include a visit from the ever-dangerous Atlético and an away fixture at a resurgent Villarreal, meaning the odds of winning this year’s La Liga title are now in Madrid’s favour.


Just four games after the restart, and with seven of the season remaining, Espanyol parted ways with head coach Abelardo following a second straight defeat. It had all looked so much brighter for the periquitos when they won their first game back, 2-0 at home to Alavés, giving them a fleeting glimpse of salvation. But that was followed by a 0-0 draw at Getafe before losses to Levante at home (3-1) and Betis away (1-0). Regarding the decision to sack Abelardo, Espanyol fan Jason Humphreys told Catalonia Today: “Abelado has the best points per games ratio of the three managers this season and has been without the goalscoring talisman Raúl de Tomás since the restart. Very harsh decision verging on the ridiculous”. Substitute coach Francisco Rufete’s first game in charge was a daunting one at home to league leaders Real Madrid, which they subsequently lost 1-0, leaving Espanyol anchored at the bottom of the table on 24 points from 32 games, 11 points from safety with six just games now remaining. If it is not already too late, now would be the time for fans to get the prayer mats out.


With six games left of the regular season, Girona are still vying for a play-off place to win a spot back in La Liga. However, their form since returning to action has been very mixed, with just one win, 2-0 at home to Numancia, two 0-0 draws, away at Las Palmas and at home to bottom-placed Racing, and two damaging defeats, 1-0 at Elche and 2-0 at Malaga. The race for play-off places is fierce, with a whole nine teams within five points of Girona at the time of writing, three of whom they still have to play before the end of the season. Two more of the other six games are against leaders Cádiz and third-placed Almeria, meaning that it is going to take quite a remarkable run-in to hold on to that prized play-off spot. Head coach Pep Lluís Martí was positive after the latest defeat, however, expressing his conviction that the team would still “find a way to fulfil their objective”.


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