For the fifth year in a row, the play-off final will be a meeting of the clubs that finished fifth and sixth during the regular season.
The Spanish football season has almost reached its conclusion, but there are two more hugely significant fixtures remaining as CD Tenerife and Girona FC will face each other over the two legs of the 2021/22 LaLiga SmartBank promotion playoffs final. The first leg will take place in Girona on Saturday June 11th at 21:00 CEST and the second will be held the following Sunday in the Canary Islands. The prize is promotion to LaLiga Santander and both clubs will be giving their all as they try to seize this golden opportunity.
It is already an achievement for both teams to be in this final. After finishing fifth in the LaLiga SmartBank table, CD Tenerife had a Canary Islands Derby against fourth-placed UD Las Palmas in the semi-finals and won 3-1 on aggregate, thanks to two Enric Gallego goals in the second leg in Gran Canaria. Girona FC, meanwhile, finished sixth during the regular season, but eliminated third-placed SD Eibar thanks to Cristhian Stuani’s 23rd goal of the season in extra time, following a 1-1 aggregate scoreline after 180 minutes.
This means that, for the fifth year in a row, the LaLiga SmartBank promotion playoffs final will be a meeting of the clubs that finished fifth and sixth in the standings during the regular season. In those previous years, Real Valladolid overcame CD Numancia in 2018, RCD Mallorca beat RC Deportivo in 2019, Elche CF defeated Girona FC in 2020 and Rayo Vallecano won promotion against Girona FC last year.
Fifth time lucky for Girona FC?
This, therefore, is the third season in a row, and the fifth overall since the current format was introduced in 2010/11, that Girona FC have made the LaLiga SmartBank playoff final. Yet, the Blanquivermells have never won promotion through the playoffs, as the only time they reached LaLiga Santander, in 2016/17, they did so via the automatic promotion spots.
The Catalan club enjoyed a two-year stay in Spain’s top flight when they came up previously, finishing a very impressive 10th in their maiden LaLiga Santander campaign under Pablo Machín. Stuani was their top scorer then and he still is, with the Uruguayan having remained loyal to the Catalan club all this time. Now the team’s captain, the 35-year-old would love to bring top-flight football back to the Estadi Montilivi.
As Stuani said after his winning goal in the semi-final: “I am proud of my teammates, who never gave up. We have been fighting all season and year after year, reaching a third final in a row. It’ll be a very competitive final.”
CD Tenerife want to celebrate the club’s centenary with promotion
While no club can match Girona FC’s experience in the playoff final, CD Tenerife also know what it’s like to suffer heartbreak at this stage of the season, having fallen to Getafe CF in the 2017 edition. Four difficult seasons outside of the top 10 followed, but the Blanquiazules have been excellent this campaign and finished fifth under coach Luis Miguel Ramis.
2022 was always going to be a special year for CD Tenerife, as the club is celebrating its centenary. To combine this with a promotion to LaLiga Santander would be extremely satisfying for everyone at the Estadio Heliodoro Rodríguez López and there is a sense that something special is brewing, after defeating neighbours UD Las Palmas in the semi-finals. But, captain Aitor Sanz wants even more, stating: “Our objective wasn’t to defeat UD Las Palmas, as it is to win promotion to LaLiga Santander. With humility and hard work, we must now think about this next match.”
CD Tenerife have only enjoyed one season in Spain’s top division over the past two decades, which was the 2009/10 campaign when they went up and then straight back down. But, the island club has accumulated 13 top-flight seasons in its history. They hope that 2022/23 will be the 14th and that starts with the playoff final first leg away at Girona FC on Saturday.