La Liga has another Cinderella side in the mix this season. Fairytale club Huesca are ready for their first ever season in the top flight and it promises to be emotional.
They have managed to add 2,000 seats to their 5,300 capacity ground – although refurbishment will mean they have to play their first three games away.
They have also been able to hang on to the 19-year-old Colombian striker, Cucho Hernandez, who they borrowed from Watford last season.
And they have loaned another forward, Ruben Semedo, currently out on bail for attempted murder and the unlicensed possession of a firearm.
Their first game will be home to Rayo Vallecano on September 14. By then they will already have visited the Nou Camp to test themselves against Lionel Messi, a player who earned around five times more last season than Huesca’s entire budget.
Huesca sits just north of Zaragoza on the map of Spain. It’s about a three-and-a-half hour drive from the Santiago Bernabeu and a two-and-a-half hour drive from the Nou Camp but with its modest ‘El Alcoraz’ stadium, it’s a world away from both the big two and almost every other club in the division.
By quirk of the fixture calendar, Huesca’s league debut comes against another team with a quaint little Subbuteo stadium.
Eibar came up in 2014 with a stadium of 5,250 seats but have since increased the capacity to 7,000. They are the perfect role model for Huesca having proved it is possible to survive among the Goliaths of the Spanish game.
Huesca are adding more seats to their ground, taking the capacity to 7,500 – the entire population of the town only reaches 50,000 – so refurbishments don’t need to go too far. The changes will oblige the team to play their first three matches away to Athletic Bilbao and then at the home of the league champions.
Huesca will not be bothered about being the paupers of the top tier because they were not exactly the princes of the second division. Their budget of £7.1million was the fourth smallest in the league as they finished runners-up last season.
Staying up will not be easy after the club lost their manager to Espanyol in the summer. Rubi had guided Huesca to second place but the offer to manage Barcelona’s second biggest club was too much to turn down, especially as he’s a Catalan who formerly coached the youth team there.
They have also lost goalkeeper Alex Remiro, who summed up the Huesca spirit towards the end of the season when he was taken to hospital after a clash of heads in the game against Lugo that was to seal the team’s promotion.
When he heard his team-mates had won 2-0 and were up, he discharged himself to join his pals in celebration. He played so well on loan from Athletic Bilbao that they have taken him back and he is set to start the season as the replacement for Kepa Arrizabalaga, who joined Chelsea last week.
What they lack in top flight experience they will hope to make up for with drive and determination. They made history last season. If they can stay in La Liga the achievement will be even greater.
HUESCA FIRST FIVE FIXTURES
- August 19 – Eibar (A)
- August 27 – Athletic Bilbao (A)
- September 2 – Barcelona (A)
- September 14 – Rayo Vallecano (H)
- September 23 – Real Sociedad (H)