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Numancia, Girona and Pablo Machín (25th March, 2017)

Given that we're playing Numancia and Girona in quick succession, today's blog post is dedicated to a man who lives and breathes the club from where he was born, only to change the fortunes of a team 300 miles away.

Pablo Machín was born in Soria, honed as a footballer at CD Numancia de Soria, made his first-team debut for the club at the age of 19, played for Numancia for four years, retired, became coach of the youth team at 25, the B team at 31, the first team as an assistant at 32, and the first team as head coach at 36. His whole life had been dedicated to the Rojillos, and he had never thought of going anywhere else.

Maybe that’s why he left after two seasons. He had never been anywhere else, and maybe it was the right time for a new challenge.

In 2014, he took a Girona team that had just finished 16th, surviving relegation on the last day, and took them to third, losing out on automatic promotion on the final day. In the very next season, Girona managed to finish fourth, reached the final of the promotion playoff but lost to a Rojillos side - no, not Numancia, Osasuna.

And this season is set to be no different, even though they have somewhat given up on their defensive-first approach, even though this summer 17 players came in and 16 players went out of the club, and even though they lose three of their top four goalscorers. This team plays with flair but more importantly with a determination that makes them chase every loose ball, every 50-50 challenge, and every misplaced pass. Pablo may have retired at 23 but his time as an attacking right back is the personification for Girona’s play. This team now plays with more width, just three at the back, and efficient forward passes.

In the Girona vs Numancia game earlier this season, Girona won 3-0. Just look at the first goal - it’s a counter attack and Álex Granell, before the halfway line, plays a lofted through ball over the defense to the left wing. It is clearly going out of play, but Sebastián Coris slides in, protects the ball and passes it to his teammate while still on the floor, receives the ball back, crosses it in to Borja García who plays a first-time back-pass-flick-on that even Sergi Roberto would be proud of, and Álex Granell, who makes the lung bursting run from inside his own half to score.

The energy of this Girona side, combined with their unusual three-at-the-back tactics, makes them an even bigger force to reckon this season.

As a club from Soria are plummeting further down the table; a man from Soria is celebrating that, about 300 miles away.

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