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Who are the La Liga Minnows in with a chance of playing in Europe next season?

Wednesday 21st March 2018

If at the start of the season you'd told any one of Girona's 9000 season ticket holders that with nine games to go, they would be sitting in seventh place - a potential Europa League qualification spot, they would have laughed at you.

Then tell them that along that journey, they would beat Real Madrid at home, pick up two points from Atletico Madrid and enjoy away wins at Deportivo La Coruna, Espanyol and Villarreal, the Blanquivernell faithful would have called you crazy. Fast forward to today and that is exactly the case. Some feat for a club playing in the top flight for the first time in their 88 year history.

Their 42-year-old coach, Pablo Machin is the man taking all the plaudits and rightly so. The Spaniard has overseen his sides growth from strength to strength, playing exciting, attacking football. Whilst many would have expected an immediate return to the Segunda for the Catalan club, goals from former Middlesbrough striker Cristhian Stuani (17) and La Liga new boy, Portu (11) have ensured the club have had the sufficient firepower needed to guide them away from the danger zone, and into potential European dreamland. If they can keep finding the net as regularly as they have in their remaining games, then Girona will be surely playing amongst Europes elite next season.

Basque side Eibar are another team having an excellent season. Playing for the fourth consecutive year in La Liga, the league's smallest club are again punching way above their weight and defying their early season position of relegation favourites. The fan-owned team who hold their games at the compact 'Ipurua' are building yet again on last season's tenth placed finish. Led by the experienced Jose Luis Mendillibar, Los Armeros are currently the highest placed club from the Basque region. Some going considering their rivals consist of two of this season's Europa League contenders in Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao and 2001 Uefa Cup runners-up Deportivo Alaves.

The club, located in the picturesque town east of Bilbao are also prime contenders for securing a European place, currently sitting four points off that coveted seventh spot. Mendillibar's men will be hopeful of a strong finish to their campaign starting with a massive derby after the international break at home to San Sebastian's Real Sociedad.

When you bring up clubs from the city of Madrid, Leganes are unlikely to be the first side to spring to mind. Situated in the southern region of the capital, the minnows are enjoying only their second ever season in the Spanish top flight. Coached by the highly sought-after Asier Garitano, Los Pepineros currently sit twelfth in La Liga - a vast improvement on last season's seventeenth placed finish. The club who avoided the drop by a mere four points have impressed many this season. Building their side around a solid defensive unit, Garitano's team have shown they are not the whipping boys many predicted they would be at the start of the season. A shock 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in January saw the club reach their first ever Copa Del Rey semi-final. A result that showcased their experienced manager's profile further and helped link him to numerous jobs including La Liga ever presents Athletic Bilbao.

While the cucumber growers sit seven points off a potential Europa League spot, many supporters will be happy that they are not involved in another relegation battle. Some will believe that they have what it takes to end the season strong enough to give themselves a real fighting chance of qualification and in the process become the smallest ever Spanish club to reach the competition.

Joe Rochester

I am a Charlton Athletic season ticket holder with a love for all things football, Big fan of La Liga and the EFL .

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