La Liga returns to action in Spain on Thursday

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Football returns to Spain on Thursday when Sevilla and Real Betis play the first game since the season was brought to a premature halt in March due to the effects of the coronavirus.

The last games in Spain were disputed on March 8 and the remaining 11 games of the season will now be played between June 11 and July 19, with matches scheduled for every day in an attempt to finish the campaign as soon as possible.

The schedule has not pleased all of the clubs in Spain, with Athletic Club Bilbao captain Iker Muniain pointing out on Tuesday that his side face the first four games of their return (against Atletico Madrid, Eibar, Betis and FC Barcelona) in just 10 days, while other teams involved in the battle to qualify for Europe, such as Betis and Valencia have four more days to play the same number of matches.

Villarreal and Leganes have also highlighted that they too have been given very little time to prepare for their first four games, even though La Liga will allow five changes per side every match until the end of the season.

The Seville derby should give an indication of what to expect in the sprint towards the end of the season, with Sevilla third in the league and Betis down in 12th place. The game is usually one of the most passionate in Spain, but with empty stands and the two teams probably short of match fitness after a long layoff and a much shorter time to prepare, it will be interesting to see how the players adapt.

Friday sees two more games as Granada, who still harbor hopes of qualifying for Europe next season, entertain Getafe, who return to action in the fifth place and aim to secure a place in next season’s Champions League.

Valencia will then play Levante in the city derby in the Mestalla Stadium and the home side will have a slight advantage after facing Atalanta behind closed doors in the Champions League before the lockdown.

The Valencia players can be forgiven if they feel nervous about the game, given that Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini recently admitted he had been suffering coronavirus symptoms before and during that game and several members of the Valencia squad and staff later tested positive for the virus themselves.

Saturday sees several matches with relegation the main issue as bottom of the table Espanyol entertain Alaves, in a 14:00 kick off, which could cause some problems for the players if the temperature in Barcelona rises.

Fourth from bottom Celta Vigo play Villarreal, while second from bottom Leganes entertain Valladolid. Leganes had improved under Javier Aguirre before the lay-off and a win over Valladolid would see their rivals pulled into the struggle to avoid the drop.

League leaders Barcelona also return to action on Saturday with a trip to Mallorca. It looks as if Lionel Messi and Nelson Semedo have recovered from muscle problems, but with such a busy fixture list, coach Quique Setien will have to be careful not to risk two key players, even though Luis Suarez returns after his knee operation.

Athletic Club Bilbao, without the retired Aritz Aduriz, entertain Atletico Madrid in a game between two sides whose games tended not to produce many goals to get things moving on Sunday, before Real Madrid swap the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for the Alfredo Di Stafano Stadium in their Valdebebas training ground to entertain Eibar.

Luka Jovic is out with a foot injury, but Marco Asensio is available for Zinedine Zidane and Gareth Bale has also recovered from a strain.

The round of matches ends with fourth-placed Real Sociedad at home against Osasuna before Matchday 29 kicks off on Monday. 

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