La Liga could be returning in June 12

La Liga Fans Dream of Restart

Well the Germans have done it, so the question now is will the Spaniards be able to?

Of course, it’s not that simple.

While the Bundesliga may have started over the weekend and generated excitement for fans and players alike, the key element of whether a restart has been fully safe is yet to be determined.

Presumably, it will be some weeks before we know if the resumption has had a positive or negative impact and, after the first games back, it was clear the return-to-play guidelines were not followed by all.

Perhaps La Liga chiefs should be glad then that they’re not leading the way, in the hope any issues will have been ironed out and resolved by the time Spain’s top flight is ready to return to competitive action.

Spanish clubs have been certainly working towards a restart, as outlined on this website last week,

Part of La Liga’s strict protocols involves training sessions progressing from individual to small group and then team training before being in a position to stage games, albeit behind closed doors.

In fact, the country’s top division has created a detailed protocol for the return to training so proper health safeguards are observed.

Players had to have coronavirus tests before recently resuming individual training, with five players testing positive in Spain’s top two divisions.

La Liga: Barcelona first-team players have stated training

General view outside Camp Nou before Barcelona’s match against Real Sociedad

The low number of positive tests also means that players and staff do not need to be based at the team training camp and can stay at home.

If the group training (which started today) goes without any hiccups – the number of players involved in the initial phase was going to be eight but this has been increased by two – the next phase would be a return to full training before a possible La Liga restart on June 12.

The sight of the champions, Barcelona, on the training ground was a sign of progress.

Quique Setien’s men returned to collective training with the ball retention exercise that the late Johan Cruyff introduced to the club, and has since become a staple of the team’s daily training programme, once again on display.

Over at Atletico, after a week of intense fitness training, the groups concentrated on their skills with the ball at their feet.

Coach Diego Simeone took advantage of the easing of measures, allowing his team to take another step towards normality.

There were rondos, shots at goalkeepers and games in reduced spaces – all conducted under the watchful eye of a La Liga representative to ensure the session followed protocol.

Across the city at Real, manager Zinedine Zidane oversaw proceedings wearing a mask and gloves, while fitness coach Gregory Dupont played a more active role in putting the players through their paces.

For those craving a La Liga restart then, there is clearly hope.

Yet there is also pressure, whether that is admitted or not.

 

After all, Uefa president Aleksander Cerefin has already said it has a “concrete plan” for finishing the European season in August with the outstanding Champions League and Europa League ties likely to be played in that month.

That means La Liga, like all other major leagues, must be finished by the end of July.

There is every reason to resume, rather than go down the manifestly unfair and farcical predicted points per game exercise that leagues in France and Scotland have followed.

At the top, Real have won only one La Liga title in the last seven years – in 2017 – and although Zidane’s side are in a state of transition, Barcelona are hardly in tip-top shape either.

Arguably more interesting is the race for the top-four with five clubs – Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Getafe, Atletico and Valencia – all within five points of each other.

Madrid-based minnows Getafe would feel particularly aggrieved at missing out on a golden chance to qualify for the Champions League, given they have never done so in their 36-year history.

Things are pretty tight at the other end of the table too. Espanyol’s 26-year stay in the top-flight is severely under threat as they prop up the standings on 20 points, six behind Celta Vigo who are 17th.

They looked all but down at one point, but the arrival of striker Raul de Tomas from Benfica in January reinvigorated their hopes as he scored four goals in his opening six games.

Just above them are Leganes, the club from whom Barcelona poached Danish striker Martin Braithwaite outside of the transfer window due to a spurious rule exclusive to La Liga clubs. Mallorca complete the trio of teams in the bottom three but Ronaldo-owned Real Valladolid and Eibar aren’t completely safe either in 15th and 16th respectively.

So, it’s all to play for and with every passing day, there is renewed promise it will.

 

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