LaLiga race for top four heats up as Real hold firm grip on top

Leaders Real will look to take another step towards reclaiming the title when they play at lowly Rayo Vallecano

Published : 15 Feb 2024, 05:12 PM
Updated : 15 Feb 2024, 05:12 PM

Real Madrid dealt a massive blow to Girona's LaLiga title hopes with a 4-0 thrashing last Saturday that left the Catalan upstarts facing a decisive weekend to tighten their grip on a place in the Champions League next season.

Girona are second in the standings on 56 points, five behind leaders Real, and have another tough challenge on Monday going to in-form Athletic Bilbao, who have not dropped a point at home since October.

Led by former Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde, Athletic are on the rise and have joined the race for the top four, sitting fifth on 46 points, two behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone's side have not won in their last three games in all competitions and will host eighth-placed Las Palmas on Saturday.

Barcelona are third and travel to struggling Celta Vigo on Saturday. A victory against Rafa Benitez's side would move the defending champions to within two points of Girona who have never qualified for European competition.

"Our goal is (to qualify) to Europe, our dream is the Champions League," Girona manager Michel said after their 1-0 win at Celta three weeks ago, predicting a tough final few months of the season.

"Our dream continues, but the demand to win every game is not our demand. The team is having a historic season," he added after the defeat at Real Madrid. It was only their second loss in the league this season, both to Carlo Ancelotti's side.

"When Barca and Madrid don't win, it's a problem for them. They have that pressure. I hope it won't be like that with Girona."

Leaders Real, fresh after beating RB Leipzig 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday, will look to take another step towards reclaiming the title when they play at lowly Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.