Madrid (AFP) – Luka Modric has been voted the best player on the planet and Real Madrid crowned European champions three times in a row but in Huesca on Saturday they will meet a team from the opposite end of the ladder.
Madrid´s stars gathered in Paris on Monday, dressed in shiny black suits and bow-ties, to watch their midfield magician collect the Ballon d´Or, ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“He is at his peak,” Real coach Santiago Solari said. “That makes it even more beautiful.”
From the Grand Palais on the Champs-Elysees, they head this weekend to northern Spain and Alcoraz, Huesca’s recently-expanded stadium with a capacity of just over 7,000, in a town of little more than 52,000 people.
There, they face La Liga’s bottom club, on seven points from 14 games, but Huesca’s ascent began far lower down than that.
The majority of their 58-year history has been spent between the third and fourth tiers. They were languishing in Segunda B as recently as 2015.
Promoted to the top flight for the first time at the end of last season, Huesca prepared by overhauling their squad, but on a shoe-string budget, with a mix of players from the lower divisions, promising youngsters and old heads from abroad.
They changed coach too, twice, after Rubi was poached by Espanyol, who are now seventh. He was replaced by Leo Franco, who only lasted until October. Then in came Francisco, who is yet to see a victory.
Some of te promotion team remained, including top scorer Alex Gallar. He joined in 2017 after spells at Cultural Leonesa, Hercules, Cornella and Mallorca’s B team, all four sides in the third tier.
“When I came here, it was not the main objective to go up to the top flight but we did it,” Gallar said. “It was a very good decision to come here.”
One of his three goals this term came against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Huesca scored twice there, including the opener, but Barca finished with eight.
This, though, will be Huesca´s first time hosting either of Spain´s two grandees and a chance for the fans to ponder on how far their team has come.
“We have seen people are behind us despite the results and pushes us to turn it around,” Francisco said last week. “Our home has to be a fortress.”
In the summer of 2013, Real Madrid bought Gareth Bale for a world record 100 million euros while Huesca signed seven players, all for nothing.