Shock Girona moved to the top of La Liga with a historic 4-2 win over rivals Barcelona on Sunday, with coach Michel stating his club can overcome any opponent.
Girona upset their Catalan rivals for the first time in the top division in a tense duel to move two points ahead of Real Madrid, who drew 1-1 at Real Betis on Saturday.
Barcelona are fourth after Atletico Madrid, who are third, defeated Almeria earlier in the day, and Xavi’s side trail Girona by seven points.
Artem Dovbyk put Girona ahead, and after Robert Lewandowski equalised for Barcelona, Miguel Gutierrez scored again for the visitors.
With 10 minutes remaining, Valery Fernandez doubled Girona’s lead before Ilkay Gundogan scored to set up a frenzied finish.
Cristhian Stuani scored from close range in stoppage time to seal a surprise victory that restores the minnows’ title hopes.
“We’re enjoying the moment, we’re in a hugely positive dynamic,” Michel said to reporters.
“I don’t know if we have the ability to win La Liga, but we are able to beat any opponent.”
Barcelona’s title defence has been severely harmed as a result of the defeat.
“They deserved it, they’ve got a lot of merit, they’re seven points ahead of us,” he told DAZN.
“We want to close the gap; this is our reality; this is a Barca in the making, though they have chastised me for saying it.”
“You take one step back to be able to take two steps forwards.”
Girona, who are part-owned by the City Football Group, were without crucial player Yangel Herrera, who they signed from Manchester City, but they did not let this deter them.
They played without fear of their more famed rivals in La Liga for only the fourth season of their history, taking the lead early on as the game see-sawed gloriously from end to end.
In the 12th minute, Ukrainian winger Viktor Tsygankov fed compatriot Dovbyk, who slammed home.
Unfazed, Barcelona promptly equalised via Lewandowski, who headed home Raphinha’s corner to snap a three-match goal drought.
Gutierrez, a former Real Madrid left-back, surged into the box and smashed an early goal into the near top corner five minutes before halftime.
Barcelona attempted to re-enter the game, with Paulo Gazzaniga saving Frenkie de Jong’s low effort and Raphinha hitting a free-kick over the crossbar.
Valery appeared to extinguish Barcelona’s aspirations with 10 minutes remaining when Stuani headed the ball into his path, and he easily beat Jules Kounde before blasting home.
Gundogan, on the other hand, twisted brilliantly in the box and lashed past Gazzaniga to give the hosts a chance to salvage a point. Lewandowski might have levelled but headed wide from a good position.
Stuani scored at the death to cap an incredible night for Girona, which saw some of their players leap over advertising hoardings and run towards their fans in excitement.
Michel stated previously that a win would catapult his squad into a new dimension, and there is no doubt that they are now legitimate title contenders this season.
Barcelona’s title defence, on the other hand, is in jeopardy.
“We’re seven points behind, which is a lot, but there’s more than half a season to go,” De Jong was quoted as saying by DAZN.
“There’s time, but we have a lot to come back from.”
Earlier, Atletico Madrid seized an early two-goal lead thanks to Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa, but Leo Baptistao brought Almeria back into the game after an hour.
As the Andalucian strugglers sought to equalise at the Metropolitano, Atletico held on for victory.
“They pressed us in the second half, we couldn’t find solutions, and it was hard for us,” Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann revealed to Movistar.
Athletic Bilbao’s visit to Granada was halted in the 18th minute after a spectator died in the stands, and the game was later abandoned.
Inaki Williams put the Basques ahead, and they will begin play with a 17-minute advantage on Monday night.