La Liga restart: All you need to know

The 11 remaining rounds of fixtures will be played over the next five-odd weeks as age-old rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid vie for the La Liga crown.

La Liga becomes the second top European league to resume, following the Bundesliga’s return last month.   -  Getty Images

Friday will mark the return of La Liga after a 93-day hiatus as the Spanish top division launches a five-week dash to wrap up the league. The La Liga is the second top European football league to resume amid the coronavirus pandemic, following the Bundesliga’s return last month.

The 11 remaining rounds of fixtures will be played over the next five-odd weeks as age-old rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid vie for the La Liga crown.

The league will begin with the Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis on Friday. Barca, which leads by two points, returns to action in an away clash with Real Mallorca on June 13, while Madrid hosts Eibar the following day.

READ | La Liga gets its wish for season return but not without compromise

It has been announced that a minute's silence will be held before each game in memory of the victims of coronavirus, 

Needless to say, all games will be held behind closed doors, but the Spanish authorities are optimistic of fans returning to the stands before the season ends.

One concerning factor remains that the players will have little rest as there will be games every day for the next 39 days.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has admitted that the league's return was fuelled by the fear of a financial meltdown. Clubs stood to lose a billion euros if the league were to be cancelled, he had said, adding that no team would have been spared. 

How the league stands

Barca has a two-point lead at the top of the table but has little breathing space as Madrid is snapping at its heels. Quique Setien’s men won four out of their last five clashes – the only loss was a 2-0 defeat to Madrid. The side’s biggest challenge perhaps will be playing in Europe’s biggest football stadium, the Camp Nou, with a deafening silence owing to empty stands.

READ | LaLiga season returns: Can Real Madrid catch Barcelona?

The Los Blancos, on the other hand, gained momentum with the Clasico win, but then slipped to a loss against Real Betis in its last game, claiming a mere seven points from its last five matches.

Instead of playing at the 81,000-seater Santiago Bernabeu, Zinedine Zidane’s side will play put the season at the 6,000-seater Alfredo di Stefano Stadium, which is home to the club's reserve and under-18 teams.

Interestingly, Zidane has fond memories of the stadium as he Madrid's reserve side for 28 games here before taking charge of the first team. He also made his career’s last appearance Real Madrid jersey here, to open the stadium in 2006.

Away from Barca and Madrid, the race for the Champions League qualification promises an enthralling contest as Sevilla in third (47 points) and Atletico Madrid in sixth are separated by all of two points.

READ | Unfamiliar homes offer Barca and Madrid fresh challenge in frenzied title race

Real Sociedad and Getafe, who have had remarkable campaigns, are tied on 46 points for the fourth and fifth spots respectively.

Down to the bottom of the table and we have Espanyol (20 points), Leganes (23 points) and Real Mallorca (25 points) are facing the threat of relegation. Celta Vigo is clear of the drop zone by one point. However, with 11 matches left for each side, there is plenty of time to climb up the ladder.         

How the action will resume

Much like the Bundesliga, La Liga has also put strict rules in place to ensure maximum safety on matchdays. A total of 270 people, including players, staff, doctors, security personnel, media, and technicians, will be allowed in the stadium for games. The visiting team will arrive in two buses to maintain social distancing, while home team members are encouraged to come in their vehicles.

Players will mandatorily have to don masks and gloves and will go through temperatures checks before entering stadiums. All common areas such as changing rooms will be disinfected and aired before, during, and after matches.

READ | La Liga to use 'virtual' stands and audio for broadcasts

In order to replicate a regular matchday experience, the League has teamed up with a Norwegian firm to use virtual images of stands in all broadcasts and it will appear as if fans are seated wearing the home club’s colours. The broadcast will also feature fans cheering as video game company EA SPORTS FIFA has developed a set of sounds that will mimic match scenarios. The sounds have been recorded in real stadiums and will be juxtaposed in real-time during a game.

All the games can be watched live on the la Liga's Facebook page.

Opening week matches (Timings in IST)

Friday: Sevilla vs Real Betis (1:30am), Granada vs Getafe (11pm)

Saturday: Valencia vs Levante (1:30am), Espanyol vs Alaves (5:30pm), Celta Vigo vs Villareal (8:30pm), Leganes vs Valladolid (11pm)

Sunday: Mallorca vs Barcelona (1:30am), Athletic vs Atletico Madrid (5:30pm), Real Madrid vs Eibar (11pm)

 

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