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Top-tier Spanish soccer resumes play after COVID-19 hiatus with 110 matches left

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Spain's LaLiga emerges from its COVID-19 hiatus on Thursday with a derby match between Sevilla FC and Real Betis, the first of the 110 matches left to play this season.

League leader Barcelona visits Mallorca on Saturday, while second-place Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

The league season is slated to run for six weeks until July 19. There will be two matchdays a week — one Monday through Thursday and the second Friday through Sunday.

"It's been a big effort but I think it underscores the point that it seems like some sort of return to normality," said Boris Gartner, CEO of LaLiga North America

The league has established an extensive COVID-19 testing protocol. The sideline team benches have been extended, there will be no pre-game handshakes and players will change their kit at halftime.

The stands will be empty but the league promises new camera angles — helped by the fact there are no fans to block — and virtual stands and fan audio (broadcasters can choose natural sound or the virtual enhanced audio).

Atop the standings, Barcelona holds a two-point lead over Real Madrid. And there are just two points between the third- and sixth-placed sides — Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Getafe and Atletico Madrid — in the battle for remaining European competition places.

At the other end of the table, Mallorca, Leganes and Espanyol are in the relegation zone.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi leads the scoring race with 19 goals. And strike partner Luis Suarez is set to join him after recovering from knee surgery. Real Madrid's Eden Hazard has also had time to heal an injured ankle.

Atletico Madrid may gain some new Canadians eyes given its ties to expansion Atletico Ottawa of the Canadian Premier League.

Games will featured the "Applause to Infinity," a tribute in the 20th minute of each game to the front-line workers and the victims of the pandemic.

The German Bundesliga was the first major European league to restart in May, and the England's Premier League and Italy's Serie A set to follow next week.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020.

 

The Canadian Press