Madrid: With just under half the La Liga season played, fans of tiny Basque club Eibar must be rubbing their eyes in disbelief to see their team seven points clear of regional heavyweights Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad.
Based in the eponymous industrial town of fewer than 30,000 inhabitants in a mountainous part of northern Spain, Eibar are performing miracles on their debut in the top flight, eighth on 26 points after 18 matches ahead of Friday`s match at Cordoba.
Bilbao and Sociedad, the traditional powerhouses of Basque soccer, are languishing in 12th and 13th respectively, just three points above the relegation places.
Eibar`s achievement is all the more remarkable given that their squad of unpretentious grafters is worth a little more than 20 million euros ($23.6 million), according to website transfermarkt.com.
Bilbao and Sociedad each have a roster of players valued at 100 million euros, while the squad of La Liga leaders Real Madrid, the world`s richest club by income, is worth 600 million.
Eibar set the tone for their season by beating visiting Sociedad in their opening game in August and went on to claim a point at Bilbao in a 0-0 draw at the end of September.
If they beat Cordoba they will move to within two points of seventh-placed Malaga and close to the qualification places for European competition.
"Winning matches without suffering is unthinkable for us," Eibar coach Gaizka Garitano said after last weekend`s hard-fought 2-1 victory at home to Getafe.
"But that`s football and that`s the reality at Eibar," added the 39-year-old, a former midfielder who played for both Bilbao and Sociedad.
The two Basque heavyweights have a chance to get their seasons back on track when they play at Villarreal and host Rayo Vallecano respectively on Saturday.
Leaders Real travel to the suburbs of the Spanish capital to take on Getafe on Sunday, before second-placed Barcelona play at Deportivo La Coruna and champions Atletico Madrid host Granada.
Real, who have a game in hand, are a point clear of Barca, with Atletico three points further adrift in third.
King`s Cup holders Real need to overturn a 2-0 deficit when they host Atletico for their King`s Cup last 16, second leg later on Thursday.
The winners of the tie will almost certainly meet Barca in the quarter-finals as the Catalans take a 5-0 advantage to Elche for Thursday`s second leg.