Following their promotion back to Spain’s top flight, Girona will travel to take on Valencia in the opening round of La Liga fixtures on Sunday.
The hosts will head into their first season under the management of Gennaro Gattuso after a ninth-placed finish last time around, while their visitors returned to La Liga through the Segunda Division playoffs.
Under the management of Jose Bordalas, Valencia enjoyed a slightly improved season last time around, eventually finishing ninth in Spain’s top flight after reaching the Copa del Rey final.
Los Che would eventually lose to Real Betis in a penalty shootout in that final, before a poor run in the final months of the league season cost them a place in the top seven.
Between the beginning of April and mid-May, they went eight league games without a victory, and after at least salvaging ninth place with a final-day win over Celta Vigo, the board opted to replace Bordalas with former AC Milan and Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso.
They head into the new term on the back of a mixed run of results in pre-season, having finished with a 2-1 win over Atalanta after victories against Borussia Dortmund and St Gallen and defeats to Stuttgart and Castellon, either side of a draw with Nottingham Forest.
With their focus now on the new league season, Los Che will hope to make a positive start under their new boss and put three points on the board at the weekend.
They welcome a Girona side who will look to mark their return to La Liga with three points on the road after winning promotion last season.
Michel’s side remained in the fight at the top end of the Segunda Division table throughout last term, and after a tough run between late April and early May, in which they suffered three defeats in a span of four league games, they were just able to cling on to a playoff place with a win and a draw to end the regular season.
The Blanquivermells then met Eibar in the semi-finals, and after a 1-0 defeat in their home leg, they would win by the same scoreline in normal time away from home, thanks to Borja Garcia’s goal inside the first minute and then triumph in extra time, with Cristhian Stuani netting the decisive goal and booking their place in the final against Tenerife.
In another two-legged tie, Girona’s home game ended in a goalless stalemate, and they would seal their promotion at the Estadio Heliodoro Rodriguez Lopez, as Stuani opened the scoring before their lead was restored by a Jose Leon own goal and Arnau Martinez secured a 3-1 victory with a goal in the final 10 minutes, ending their three-year stay in the second tier.
Now keen to establish themselves as a La Liga club in the coming years, Michel’s men will hope to make a fast start with a victory on Sunday before hosting Getafe and Celta Vigo later in August.
Valencia pre-season form:
Girona La Liga form:
We say: Valencia 2-1 Girona
We expect a closely-fought encounter on Sunday, as Girona come into the season with momentum following their promotion, but we still tip the balance just in the hosts’ favour.
Los Che will be desperate to improve after last season, and with Gattuso hoping to bring about an immediate bounce, they should have what it takes to come away with all three points on home turf.