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Nothing is Written: How Granada are seizing their moment

"We are proud and we belong in this competition," says the debutants' coach Diego Martínez.

Nothing is Written: Granada
Nothing is Written: Granada

Granada head to Napoli this week looking to defend a 2-0 lead and earn a place in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 – a phenomenal position for a side who were in Spain’s second tier two years ago.

Led by the youngest manager in Spain’s top division, 40-year-old Diego Martínez, Granada have outstripped expectations in the last three seasons. In 2018/19, they won promotion to La Liga in their first campaign under Martínez, then shocked the nation by qualifying for Europe with a seventh-placed finish in 2019/20. Making their European debut this term, they comfortably navigated the group stage and now hold a 2-0 advantage over continental giants Napoli.

Highlights: Granada 2-0 Napoli
Highlights: Granada 2-0 Napoli

"Not even the most optimistic Granada fan would have believed this," said Martínez. "From the second division to competing in the UEFA Europa League in just two years. It’s incredible. We will never be the biggest club but we are ambitious. We worked hard to earn our spot in the next phase and we are proud to represent the club and the badge."

Much has been made of the contributions of veteran strikers Jorge Molina and Roberto Soldado – aged 38 and 35 respectively – to the Granada cause, but it was 23-year-old Yangel Herrera who captured the imagination in the round of 32 first leg against Napoli. The Venezuelan midfielder scored Granada’s opener, and national sports paper Marca nodded approvingly that the one-time Manchester City trainee “seems to get better every time he steps on the pitch”.

"It was a very, very important win," Herrera told UEFA.com. "We carried out the game plan well. We were very focused for the 90 minutes. We were able to get the lead early in the game and were able to hold on to this and a clean sheet was very important."

Their defensive mettle will doubtless be tested this week in Naples, but Granada are confirming that their place in the UEFA Europa League is no accident. "It has taken a lot of effort but with the group stage done and after some solid results, we are proud and we belong in this competition," Martínez said. "We are still on this dream trajectory and we are proving that nothing is written."