Granada’s final day of La Liga will go down as one of the most important days in the club’s history to date. Their entry into the European realm of football was determined by a number of results across the league.
Relying on teams to lose and themselves to win, qualifying albeit being close, felt next to impossible due to the demanding task in front of them. Before the final game both Valencia and Getafe sat above the Andalusian side, with Getafe sat firmly in the European places after performing impressively all season and competing in Europe along side the Primera Liga.
Valencia too would be desperate for a return to the European stage after impressively topping their group in the Champions League which included clubs such as Chelsea, Ajax and Lille.
Before the League even started Granada would have been relegation favourites after being promoted from the Segunda Liga. With smart investment in the summer transfer window Granada bought in experienced striker Roberto Soldado along side two Venezuelan players, Yangel Herrera and Darwin Machis.
The first game of the season they hosted Villareal at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes in a thrilling 4-4 encounter. A further four games down the line back at home Granada would defeat FC Barcelona 2-0, sitting comfortably in the European Champions League positions.
Fast forward to the present Europa League Qualifying campaign and Granada join the race for the group stages in the preliminary first rounds.
Brought into bolster their attacking options for Europe Jorge Molina had joined from Getafe after missing out their own European qualification.
Brazilian midfielder Kenedy had also joined the squad on loan after spending last season on loan too along side Molina. Drawn away to Albanian outfit Teuta Durrës, the home team was easily swept aside after goals from Soldado, Kenedy and a brace from Hererra. Due to the coronavirus pandemic still having an adverse effect on fixtures across Europe, cup ties would remain one single fixture with no return leg and scrapping the ‘away goals rule’. They would qualify for the group stages by defeating both Lokomotiv Tiblisi and Malmo respectively.
From an away loss at Getafe on the 31st October 2019 through to another away defeat at Atletico Madrid on the 8th February 2020, Granada would only win three games in this period, putting a dent into their European chances but not putting their La Liga status in jeopardy.
However, their season would turn around and the squad would only lose 3 games out of the remaining 15 fixtures. On the final day of the season El Grana would play their all-important part and dominate Athletico Bilbao 4-0 on home turf. Getafe would be kicking their selves after losing 1-0 to Levante, and Valencia would not play a part in European football at all after suffering defeat to the same score line as Getafe, losing 1-0 to Sevilla.
Pandemonium ensued on the pitch as Granada players had learned their fate after qualifying for Europe in their first season back to the Premira, coach Diego Martinez was visually caught up in the emotion of the game shedding a few tears whilst walking to join in the celebrations.
Granada now find their selves drawn into Group E of the 2020/2021 Europa League. Not necessarily a ‘group of death’ involving all this year’s best clubs packed into one group, but rather the group will be unpredictable given the nature clubs involved.
Omonia Nicosia, Cyprus’s representation in the Champions League, found their selves in the group stage after losing the last two-legged qualifier to Greek Champions Olympiakos. Fellow Greek side PAOK had suffered the same fate, despite defeating Portuguese giants Benfica along the way, it would be Russian outfit FC Krasnodar that would crash the Greek side into the Europa League group stages. Potential group favourites would be Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, offering a wealth of experience in both the Europa League and the Champions League.
It will be interesting to see how the Spanish side line-up and prepare for their first experience in the group stages of a European Tournament and to keep up appearances in La Liga. Spending a total of £18 Million in the transfer window Granada have added to their squad to deal with the demands of La Liga and European football, setting out to debunk the myth that International tournaments can hinder domestic success. Raiding newly relegated Watford FC they added Centre-forward (appropriately named) Luis Suarez and Right-Back Dimitri Foulquier.
After adding the duo from the English club their attention returned to Spain, recruiting another duo from Real Madrid, Right Winger Alberto Soro and Jesús Vallejo a Centre-Back, although the latter would be a season long loan. Being handed the chance to compete in the big time, Tenerife’s Luis Milla would be snapped up for £4.5 Million, after being Tenerife’s most significant player of recent campaigns.
Granada’s squad does boast some impressive talent alongside experience, the campaign will be tough juggling domestic and European fixtures, however no one can write off the Andalusian underdogs