MADRID. – The Spanish La Liga football season begins today without its top teams, and still without fans, but with hope that an unusual summer could lead to a season of surprises.
Lionel Messi has stayed but will be playing a friendly against Segunda B’s Gimnastic Tarragona today.
Barcelona do not start their league campaign under new coach Ronald Koeman until the third round.
Barca, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla have been granted extra time off, meaning the top four from last term will all be absent on the first weekend, when only seven fixtures are taking place.
Yet more than the heavyweights, who will take to the field later this month, the league will miss the fans, whose absence might be felt even more keenly at the start of a new season than during the desperate attempt to finish the last one.
At Cadiz, who are back in the top flight after 14 years away, the stands at the Carranza would have been bouncing, revelling in a new beginning against Osasuna.
Instead they will be empty, and there will also be silence at the league’s curtain-raiser at Ipurua, where Eibar are continuing their own miracle by embarking on their seventh consecutive year in the top flight, at home to Celta Vigo.
La Liga’s plan had been to stagger the return of supporters through the autumn, building up stadium capacities from, at first, 30 per cent through to full grounds some time in the new year.
But a worrying rise in coronavirus cases in Spain means those plans have been shelved, with the league awaiting better news from the government before taking any steps forward.
“I believe that to see stadiums like before it can only happen with a vaccine,” said La Liga president Javier Tebas on Monday.
“I hope it can be in January or February. Several governments have already announced it and that would be the beginning of the end of this bad dream.”
While the pandemic may be beyond their control, LaLiga and the Spanish Football Federation have hardly helped an already slow start by creating further chaos over fixtures.
The original opening game between Granada and Athletic Bilbao, scheduled for last night, has been moved to today, an announcement made on Wednesday night, 48 hours before the planned kick-off.
Spanish La Liga Fixtures
Today: Eibar v Celta de Vigo (4pm); Granada v Athletic Club (6:30pm); Cádiz v Osasuna (9pm).
Tomorrow: Barcelona v Elche (Postponed); Real Madrid v Getafe (Postponed); Deportivo Alavés v Real Betis (2pm); Real Valladolid v Real Sociedad (4pm); Villarreal v Huesca (6:30pm); Valencia v Levante (9pm) — AFP.