BARCELONA, Spain — Girona ensured it will earn its first ever berth in a European competition next season after routing Cadiz 4-1 in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Girona solidified its hold on third place and guaranteed it cannot finish lower than seventh, the spot that is rewarded with a trip to the Europa Conference League. A fifth- or sixth-place is good for the Europa League, and the top four get the biggest prize of the Champions League.

Girona opened up a 10-point gap over fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao with six more games remaining.

The club from northeastern Spain is one of the revelations of European soccer this season. In three previous seasons in the top flight, Girona's best finish was 10th.

“This is a historic moment for the club. It is incredible that only in our fourth season in the top flight we have reached Europe,” goal-scorer Iván Martín said. “We have achieved our first goal, but we want more.”

Girona's players put on T-shirts saying “Here We Are Europe” in Catalan while celebrating on the field.

Girona coach Michel Sánchez insisted his team's goal, having slipped from the top of La Liga, is the Champions League.

“We have to keep dreaming. I am very happy for my players for the amazing season they are having,” said Míchel, who helped the team earn promotion from the second division in 2022.

There could be, however, a possible conflict with UEFA because Girona is partly owned by Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi ownership. UEFA rules say two teams with the same owner can’t play in the same competition. As of now, Girona and City would qualify for the Champions League. Girona has said it is not worried, citing precedents of clubs with the same ownership playing in UEFA competitions.

Defender Éric García opener the scoring in the ninth minute, Martín scored a low shot from an angle, Ukraine striker Artem Dovbyk notched his competition-leading 18th goal to make it 3-0, and Portu added the fourth after Gonzalo Escalante pulled one back for the visitors.

On Sunday, Real Madrid hosts Barcelona aiming to deal a decisive blow in the title race. Madrid leads second-placed Barcelona by eight points.


Ayoze Pérez scored twice as Real Betis won at Valencia 2-1 to leapfrog the host and move into seventh place.

Iago Aspas also found the net twice to lead Celta Vigo over Las Palmas 4-1.

It was Celta's second win in four games under Claudio Giráldez after he replaced Rafa Benítez as coach.

Rayo Vallecano also got late goals from Pep Chavarria and Isi Palazón to pull off a 2-1 fightback over Osasuna.

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