Right at the start of the season, nobody even considered that they could survive in La Liga. Newly promoted Granada CF had one of the smallest budgets to work with in Spanish elite, a squad that lacked enough quality according to many so-called experts, led by a manager who few outside the Iberian Peninsula had even heard of. Now the modest Andalusian club will be competing in Europe for the first time in their history.
Spanish clubs aim for European dominance
Throughout the month of August this year, fans of European football will be paying close attention to what happens in the Champions League and Europa League, as both competitions resume and head towards their exciting conclusions.
Since La Liga came “Back to Win” in Spain, the mighty Real Madrid were unstoppable in their quest to beat Barcelona to the title. However, looking at the latest football betting odds at +2500 for the Champions League, the side managed by Zinedine Zidane are, surprisingly, underdogs to lift the trophy this time around. They must overcome a first-leg deficit and surpass Manchester City, the +333 favorites, if that dream is to stay alive.
As for the Europa League, the quest for yet another triumph continues for Sevilla. They too are considered outsiders at +900 this time, although having triumphed three times in a row between 2014 and 2016, just like Real Madrid in the Champions League, it’s hard to dismiss their possibilities, even if Manchester United and Inter Milan are considered favorites.
Granada upset the odds in Spanish football
Granada upset the odds Spain
This time last year, fans of Granada CF were still celebrating their promotion to La Liga. Expecting a tough time in the top tier of Spanish football, the objective was little more than survival for these underdogs. Nevertheless, their talented young manager Diego Martinez forged an exceptional team mentality based around unity and hard work, with every player grafting for the cause.
Granada caught everyone by surprise when early in the 2019-20 season, they comfortably beat Barcelona at home and briefly topped La Liga, doing so for the first time in the club’s history. People started to pay more attention to these upstarts from the south, who refused to give up any game as a lost cause, whatever the score and no matter the opponent.
As the season progressed, the impossible dream remained within touching distance. While defeats and draws would inevitably come, Martinez continued to fill his players with confidence, inspiring them to keep believing. Heading into the final game of the season and with four teams battling for two remaining Europa League spots, Granada was still within touching distance.
European reward for La Liga minnows
While they needed results elsewhere in La Liga to assist, Granada focused entirely on their encounter against Athletic Bilbao, an opponent who eliminated them from the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey earlier in the season. Martinez didn’t just inspire a victory from his team, Granada demolished their Basque rivals 4-0 and whatever happened in the other games, nobody could say they hadn’t given everything to keep the European dream alive.
At the final whistle, a pause. Granada players gathered in anticipation of results elsewhere. Real Sociedad had claimed one of the Europa League spots with a draw away against Atletico Madrid. Valencia had been beaten by Sevilla and fell out of the race, while Getafe knew a win at Levante would keep them above Granada, and secure European football for the second season in a row.
Then it came. In the final minute of stoppage time as Getafe threw everything forward, Levante scored a late winner. As the news reached Granada, the jubilant celebrations began. They had qualified for the Europa League and for the first time in the club’s history, they would be participants in European competition. All the hard work had paid off.
What to expect next season?
Although it seems unlikely that Granada will win the Europa League, whatever happens, their fans will enjoy every minute of the action. This is new territory for them, a bold adventure to be cherished for however long it lasts. But you know what? This is a Granada team that might just ruffle a few feathers on their pathfinding journey across the Old Continent, just as they have in La Liga this year.