It’s hard to find two more contrasting clubs than Barcelona and Getafe, but when they meet on Saturday at Camp Nou, only one place separates the sides in La Liga.
The Spanish champions are second and Getafe, improbably, are third. They are chasms apart in stature, finance, structure, history and style. And yet, they compete as near equals this weekend.
Much credit goes to coach Jose Bordalas, who dragged the team up by its bootstraps, from second bottom of the Segunda Division in 2016, to the cusp of the Champions League. On the final matchday of last season they still had the chance to finish fourth but were just pipped by bitter rivals Valencia - we’ll get to that - and ended up in the Europa League. They won four of six in their group to set up a tasty last 32 clash against Ajax.
- Barcelona's UEFA Women's Champions League triumph can inspire runners-up Chelsea
- Inter financial crisis: Could Lautaro, Lukaku & Conte really leave San Siro this summer?
- Suarez late show keeps Atletico in control as La Liga's ludicrous title race goes to the wire
- Alisson Wonderland! Liverpool goalkeeper's magic moment keeps Champions League dream alive
Barcelona are the second oldest team in La Liga, founded in 1899, one of three sides never to go down. Getafe are the youngest, 1983, starting in the seventh tier. Captain Jorge Molina was born a year before the club itself. Fans around the world flock to Camp Nou, a temple of football, Europe’s biggest stadium with over 99,000 seats, while Getafe have been searching for new ways to try and fill their Coliseum Alfonso Perez which has a capacity of just 17,000.
One such scheme was ‘Getafinder’, a Tinder-esque application for Getafe fans to meet and find romance, while another campaign on national television encouraged supporters to donate sperm and ‘breed more fans’, in conjunction with a zombie porn film they helped to produce. Yes, really.
Getafe are allowed to allocate €56 million on salary by La Liga. Barcelona’s cap is €671m per year. The team from the Madrid suburbs, over the past decade, have spent approximately €81m on transfers, on average €8m a season. Barcelona bought Antoine Griezmann for €120m this campaign alone.
Barcelona, historically, and certainly under Quique Setien, want to play the beautiful game, cherishing possession. Getafe have been labelled purveyors of ‘anti-football’, dour, defensive, dabblers in the dark arts even if Bordalas disagrees.
“Whoever labels us anti-football doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” the coach told newspaper ABC . “[We] press in their half, play direct, look for goal as much as possible, and get into the box with as many players as possible.
“This is modern football and Getafe is one of the teams that is best at modern football. There’s a lot of ways to play, all valid and attractive. They want to pin coaches to styles, but our responsibility is to mould the squad we have.”
A long way from Pep Guardiola, then, but Getafe's style is more similar to that of Liverpool, if Jurgen Klopp's side had a fraction of the resources, with more than a dash of Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid when it comes to mindset.
Bordalas, who has nine siblings and acknowledges that experience has helped him manage a group, has full confidence in his staff, hailing Javier Vidal the best fitness coach in the world. Getafe rarely have injury problems, using Zone7 technology which predicts injuries through pattern recognition.
"Javi is a well-trained professional, he knows his methodology very well, and we were there to help him with the tweaks and the personalisation for two or three players every single day to ensure that the squad was 95 per cent available, for over three years,” Zone7 CTO Eval Eliakim told FootballCritic .
Last season Getafe had eight injuries. Barcelona had 27. They are still greatly hampered, with Ousmane Dembele out for six months, Luis Suarez stricken for four, Samuel Umtiti suffering on and off since 2018, and Lionel Messi playing with a thigh problem amid other concerns.
Facing Getafe has been described as a visit to the dentist but it doesn’t mean Bordalas’s side are incapable of beauty. In fact, in the 2-0 win at Athletic Club they scored a better team goal than Barcelona have managed all season. Right-back Damian Suarez played a series of one-twos and then finished with aplomb to break the deadlock at San Mames.
That came after wins against Real Betis and local rivals Leganes, and was followed by their biggest statement of intent yet last weekend, a 3-0 thrashing of Valencia. Last season Getafe and Los Che were engaged in a running battle, which went beyond the mutual disdain between then Valencia coach Marcelino and Bordalas.
The teams scrapped wildly at the end of a full-blooded Copa del Rey semi-final tie, which Valencia shaded, before pipping Getafe to fourth. This time around, it was different. Molina, 37 years old, scored a brace, Jaime Mata netted the third and it could have been far more, with Getafe swallowing their opponents whole.
“Everything was sh*t,” said Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista, having had the Getafe experience. He’s right; if you’re on the losing end of it.
Bordalas has had more than his fair share of arguments with other coaches, including Barcelona’s Setien, whom he feels disrespected him. Lugo coach at the time, he complained about Bordalas’s Alcorcon.
“They break up the game and waste time,” grumbled Setien. “I hope they do not get promoted.” Then, when Setien was in charge of Real Betis, he blasted his opposite number again. “This is lamentable,” he raged. “Getafe are the team that commits the most fouls. He knows it, and it’s lamentable they only added on three minutes, it’s always the same. The officials can’t allow there to be only 25 minutes of play in each half. This is not football, this is something else. It boils my blood.”
They didn’t shake hands the next time they met. Setien wasn’t wrong about the fouls either and this season it’s the same with Getafe on 18.6 per game on average, more than any other side. “[I] didn’t call to congratulate him on his appointment at Barcelona. We don’t have that kind of relationship,” Bordalas told Cadena Ser radio.
"Of course with Setien on the bench, you plan differently than for a game against [Ernesto] Valverde.”
Expect Bordalas to have plans up his sleeve which enrage Setien again this weekend.