La Liga is set to resume with the Seville derby on 11 June but what is their left to play for?
Spain has been given the green light to restart top professional football with Sevilla against Real Betis kicking off proceedings on Thursday 11 June, with kick-off set for 9pm.
One by one, the top domestic leagues across Europe are resuming after the Coronavirus epidemic. La Liga is next to push through the breach and restart professional football in Spain.
The Bundesliga in Germany has been back in full swing for a month now and both Italy’s Serie A and the English Premier league have announced their own return dates of the 20 and 17 June respectively.
However, is Spain now ‘stable’ following the Covid-19 pandemic?
With over 27,000 deaths, Spain has been one of the worst affected nations in Europe yet since 26 May, there have been less than 10 new deaths related to coronavirus every day. On top of this, the last time over 1,000 new cases were recorded in a 24-hour period was 28 May.
Perhaps this does signal a degree of readiness from Spain to start returning life back to ‘normal’ and with that, the Spanish topflight.
With this in mind, what is left to play for in Spain’s premier division?
As usual, it is a two-horse race for the title between Barcelona and Real Madrid. In fact, Atlético Madrid and Valencia are the only other teams to have been crowned La Liga champions since the turn of the millennium – winning the league a combined three times. Barça are currently two points clear at the top of the table on 58 points but Quique Setién’s side aren’t quite the force they have been in years gone by.
Atletico Bilbao sent the Catalan side out of the Copa del Rey with a 1-0 victory back in February. A place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League hangs in the balance after a 1-1 draw away to Napoli in the first leg and just a few weeks prior to lockdown being announced, the 26 times league champions lost 2-0 to Real Madrid in the league. That being said, Barça are still top of La Liga and on course to winning their third title in as many years.
Nobody has a better defensive record in the league this season than Real Madrid. After 27 matches played, Zidane’s side have lost three games and conceded just 19 goals. That works out at an average of just 0.7 per game. However, what has cost Real points this season is the number of draws they have had. To have drawn eight times this campaign and win just two out of the last five matches demonstrates how the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo two years on has still not been dealt with. How many times did the talisman come up with a winner when a stalemate was on the horizon?
The signing of Eden Hazard from Chelsea last Summer has not had the desired effect due to injury and of the 10 appearances he has made this season, he has only scored once. Los Blanco’s face Eibar, Valencia, Real Sociedad, Mallorca and Espanyol in June alone when the league resumes and will be confident they can take maximum points from each of the games if they are to remain within touching distance of Barcelona.
To find the last time Sevilla finished third in La Liga, you would have to go all the way back to 2009. A team containing stars such as a young Jesús Navas, Luis Fabiano and an 18-year-old Teemu Pukki. This season, players like Ocampos Lucas with 10 goals in 22 appearances and a 34-year-old Jesús Navas have been the recipe for success for Julen Lopetegui’s side.
A third-place finish is by no means a guarantee though; as just five points separate Sevilla in third and Valencia in seventh and with fixtures such as Barcelona at home to come, the five-time Europa League champions will have to hit the ground running if they are to cement themselves in the Champions League next season.
Finishing up the current but by no means finalised top four is Real Sociedad. With just four losses in the league since the start of 2020, Sociedad have been a surprise package this season and picked up some fantastic results including a dramatic 4-3 win against Real Madrid in the quarterfinal of the Copa Del Ray at the start of February. It hasn’t been a lone striker to grab all the goals this campaign either. The combination of Isak Alexander, Oyarzabal Mikel, Portu and Willian Jose Da Silva have been the source of goals with a total of 31 between them and interestingly, not one player has scored more than 10 individually. Imanol Alguacil’s side are only fourth due to goal difference with 46 points and both Getafe in fifth, and Atletico Madrid in sixth, will be confident they can snatch that last lucrative Champions League spot.
Whilst mathematically, all of the bottom three can climb to safety when play starts again, some teams look more destined for relegation than others. Espanyol currently sits rock bottom on 20 points with just four wins all season and a goal difference of negative 23, the worst in the division. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona await in the remaining fixtures suggesting that the six-point gap to safety may only get bigger. No team has scored fewer goals this season than 19th place Leganes. Having only found the net 21 times in the 27 games played makes it no secret as to why they are in the bottom three with 23 points. Finishing up the relegation pack is Mallorca in 18th.
In one sense, it is a good job that these players have just had the last two and a half months off as the number of games to be played in such a short space of time is breath-taking. For example, Real Madrid restarts their campaign against Eibar on June 14. Their last game is due to be played just one month and five days later on July 19. That’s a grand total of 11 games in just 36 days. This has been done so that domestic leagues can be completed by the end of July and leave August free to finish European competitions. Some might say that these players will be earning their wages for once, but others might feel sorry for physios as they are going to have one very busy post-season…
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk.