La Liga Returns: The Title Race, Champions League Battle, Relegation Fight & Big Games to Look Forward to

Lionel Messi
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La Liga is poised to return on 11 June following a three month coronavirus enforced hiatus.

Fans of the Spanish first tier are to be treated to a bumper month of football, with remaining league fixtures played every day until the season concludes on 19 July.

Proceedings were finely poised at both ends of the table before the campaign ground to a halt in March, leaving plenty of loose ends to be tied up during the final 11 games of the season.

Let’s take a look at how things currently stand, the big games to look forward to, and how things could finish up in La Liga.

Lionel Messi, Toni KroosLionel Messi, Toni Kroos
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Barcelona lead Real Madrid by two points, with 11 games left to play. Real can finish the season with a maximum of 89 points if they win their remaining league matches. If this is the case, Barcelona too must take maximum points from their final fixtures to be certain of retaining their title.

Even if Real don’t drop a single point, Barcelona could potentially afford to draw one of their remaining league games and still win the title. This would leave the two sides tied on 89 points, and Barcelona currently have a better goal difference – although by a margin of just two goals.

Barcelona’s run-in is not simple. They still have to travel to third place Sevilla – who themselves are in with an outside chance of lifting the title, although this would involve them making up an 11 point gap over Barcelona in 11 games.

The defending La Liga champions also have the visit of Diego Simeone’s famously stubborn Atletico Madrid standing between them and the title.

Quique Setien, Zinedine ZidaneQuique Setien, Zinedine Zidane
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real have some potential banana skins of their own to navigate. Zinedine Zidane’s side still have the tricky visit of Valencia to come – having rescued a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in December thanks to a 96th minute Karim Benzema equaliser.

Los Blancos also face a trip to fourth place Real Sociedad, another side who could still mathematically – although highly unlikely – win the title.

Neither Barcelona or Real have been at their best this season, with the pair both dropping points on multiple occasions, suggesting there are still plenty of twists left in this year’s title race.

The pair are both back in action on 13 June, with Real welcoming Eibar and Barcelona visiting Mallorca.

alvaro Morataalvaro Morata
DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The battle for Europe is just as tight as the title race, with third place Sevilla down to Valencia in seventh all realistically in with a shout of securing the final two Champions League spots.

Villarreal, Granada and Athletic Club could also sneak in, with the latter down in 10th but just nine points off Real Sociedad in fourth.

Sevilla sit on 47 points, and Sociedad and Getafe are a point behind in fourth and fifth. With an identical goal difference, Sociedad are currently keeping Getafe out of the Champions League places on goals scored.

Martin OdegaardMartin Odegaard
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid are in sixth spot on 45 points, currently missing out on Champions League football by a single point, while Valencia are a further three points behind in seventh.

The race for the Champions League will be fascinating, with all sides in contention still scheduled to play each other before the season’s climax. Sociedad still have a trip to Getafe, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal on their fixture list, as well as the visits of Seville and Granada.

Getafe’s first game back sees them play Granada, and they will also welcome Atletico Madrid before the season is out, while Valencia have encounters with Sevilla, Granada, Villarreal and Athletic Club in the pipeline.

Dani RodriguezDani Rodriguez
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It’s very much squeaky bum time in the lower echelons of La Liga, with just nine points separating Mallorca in the final relegation spot, and Osasuna in 11th.

Espanyol are slightly cut adrift at the league basement, six points from safety. Leganes sit second from bottom, just three points off 17th spot Celta Vigo.

Celta Vigo are a point clear of Mallorca in the drop zone, while Eibar and Real Valladolid are still very much in danger, sitting a respective two and three points clear of the drop zone.

Iago AspasIago Aspas
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Alaves, Levante, Real Betis and Osasuna have all got a little bit of daylight between themselves and the bottom three, but could easily get dragged into a relegation dog fight if they don’t hit the ground running.

Mallorca have a very tasty fixture list, with matches against Real Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Atletico Madrid still to come, in addition to relegation six pointers against Celta Vigo and Leganes.

Leganes themselves have got meetings with fellow strugglers Eibar and Valladolid ahead of them, leaving plenty of opportunity for movement in the relegation zone before the curtain comes down on the season.

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Building Real Madrid’s Perfect La Liga Footballer

Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid v Juventus – UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

As a club renowned for their Galactico signings, it’s no surprise that Real Madrid have had a plethora of unbelievable talent in the modern era.

Los Blancos are arguably the greatest and most famous club side in the world, and definitely have the players and the silverware to prove it.

The prospect of assembling their perfect footballer is thus a mouthwatering one – and no it’s not just Cristiano Ronaldo.

Here, 90min rounds up an amalgamation of the club’s star names, in order to create the ultimate, perfect footballer…

Sergio RamosSergio Ramos
Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid – UEFA Champions League Final | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

While he’s often seen losing it – with his staggering 20 La Liga red cards testament to that – football’s biggest sh*thouse is definitely the man for the job with this head.

Although he’s an absolute animal at the back, he’s also no stranger to netting at the other end – often throwing himself at the ball and guiding it into the goal.

His equalising goal in the 2014 Champions League final was a thing of beauty, as he nodded the ball into the Atlético net to send the tie to extra-time, where Real would rampantly go on to clinch victory.

While he could have got in the above category for his infamous headbutt at the 2006 World Cup, Zidane undoubtedly had one of the most intelligent footballing brains.

The sight of the Frenchman weaving and gliding through midfield with consummate ease was a thing of absolute beauty, as the generational talent guided his nation to World Cup and European Championship glory in 1998 and 2000, respectively.

As for his spell in Madrid, the former Juventus man was imperious – dictating the play and dominating midfield as the true star in a side littered with big names.

Just watch his 2002 Champions League final goal on repeat, it says everything there is to know about his genius.

David BeckhamDavid Beckham
Barcelona v Real Madrid | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

While he remains an icon of world football, it is too often forgotten how bloody good a player Beckham actually was.

After leaving Manchester United with a boot to the face – courtesy of Sir Alex Ferguson – the follically-gifted Englishman arrived in Madrid with a point to prove.

While many players falter at the Santiago Bernabeu, ‘Golden Balls’ thrived, laying on assist after assist with his trademark ping of the right boot and his unrivalled vision.

Few players have had the ability to pick out his man as often as Beckham.

Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim BenzemaGareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema
Real Madrid CF v Levante UD – La Liga | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Although Benzema’s become somewhat the main man in Madrid following the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, it was his performances as part of the famed ‘BBC’ attack that truly showcased his all-round talents.

While he remained a consistent goalscorer, his off-the ball running was integral to his side’s play as his unselfish work ethic allowed his Portuguese teammate to garner all the acclaim.

Though he hasn’t always looked the fittest of players, the exiled French international puts a shift in like few other strikers and is a severely underrated and underappreciated star of the last decade.

Cristiano RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo
FC Barcelona v Real Madrid – Supercopa de Espana: 1st Leg | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Okay, he could have staked a claim for any part of our perfect footballer, but few can argue that Cristiano Ronaldo is anything but a physical specimen.

The former United forward has become a shining example of the benefits of hardwork and relentless training, as he combined his prodigious talent with an obsession for the gym after his early days as a scrawny teenager.

After his radical transformation circa 2006, the Portugal star became an unstoppable athlete and footballer, with his speed and strength a deadly mixture.

To his credit, he has shown no signs of slowing down – despite being 35 years old – and continues to have the physique of a player half his age.

The ‘other’ Ronaldo also makes it into our perfect footballer, and rightly so.

While he may not have enjoyed the longevity of his namesake, the Brazilian was explosive at his pomp and tore defences apart on regular occasions.

O Fenômeno had the talent that few, if any, players have possessed, with his right boot a thing of pure beauty and brilliance. A certified weapon.

Real Madrid v Espa xReal Madrid v Espa x
Real Madrid v Espa x | Firo Foto/Getty Images

Ronaldo’s compatriot and former teammate Roberto Carlos had the most deadly and skilled left foot in football.

His thunderous ability to strike the ball – particularly at dead ball situations – became his trademark in Madrid, as he became a real threat down the left flank.

The former Inter star revolutionised modern attacking full-backs and passed on the mantle to the club’s current Brazilian left-back star, Marcelo.

The Welshman has not exactly made many friends in Madrid of late, but there’s no doubt that Bale has shown enough in his spell in the Spanish capital to earn more respect from fans and pundits alike.

Although injury has plagued his time at the club, his early form was breathtaking – as he tore down the right-wing to great effect.

His goal in the 2014 Copa del Rey final truly epitomised his burning speed, as he sprinted past the helpless Marc Bartra of Barcelona to score one of the most memorable goals of recent times.

Wonder if he’s as quick with the putter as he is on the pitch…

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Achraf Hakimi’s Agent Confirms Real Madrid Plans – But Hints Client Won’t Rush Decision on Future

Achraf Hakimi
Borussia Moenchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund – Bundesliga | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The agent of Achraf Hakimi, who is currently on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid, has revealed that while the player’s ultimate aim is to end up at the ‘best team in the world’ (his parent club), there’s no need to hurry making a decision on his immediate future.

Hakimi has emerged as one of the brightest young talents in Europe, acting as a crucial member of Lucien Favre’s Dortmund side. The wing-back has made 40 appearances in all competitions this season up to this point, netting eight times and providing a stunning ten assists.

The 21-year-old’s hugely impressive performances at Dortmund haven’t gone unnoticed, with a number of top clubs from across Europe showing an interest in him.

Achraf HakimiAchraf Hakimi
Borussia Dortmund v Sport-Club Freiburg – Bundesliga | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

However, Hakimi’s agent Alejandro Camano recently revealed that his client will return to Madrid this summer, while the player himself also admitted that Real Madrid are the club he ‘calls home’.

Camano has now provided another update on the versatile player’s future, insisting that Hakimi sees his long-term future at the Santiago Bernabeu. As for the short-term, however, no decision has yet been made, and talks are ongoing about what will be best for Hakimi’s development – but there is no hurry.

“He will link back up with Real Madrid when the season finishes. We’ll see what happens after that,” Camano told Onda Madrid, as quoted by Goal. “He wants to play games, like this season, where he has started every match. There’s no rush. His only aspiration is to play games to help his development.

“There’s a magnificent dialogue with Real Madrid and they always expect to have him on their radar and what we don’t want is to distance ourselves from them too much.

Achraf HakimiAchraf Hakimi
Real Madrid v Celta de Vigo – La Liga | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Camano went on to explain that while the Moroccan’s short-term future at the club hasn’t yet been decided, he is keen to eventually nail down a place in the starting lineup for what he believes is the best team in the world.

“So, we’ll reach an agreement of some sort over whether he stays or goes, but without forgetting that the aim is to play for Real Madrid one day because, for him, it’s the best club in the world.

“It could be a short wait if Real Madrid offer him to stay now or a long wait if he doesn’t stay, but the aim is always the same – end up [playing for] the best club in the world.”

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La Liga President Sets Out Timeline for Season’s End & Plans for 2020/21

Javier Tebas
La Liga President Javier Tebas | Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

La Liga president Javier Tebas has outlined his plans for both the end to the current season, as well as the 2020/21 campaign.

Like every other major football league, the Spanish top-flight was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. But clubs have been preparing for a return to action, with training resuming at the start of May, and the league was also given permission from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to resume in June.

Speaking to Marca, Tebas revealed more details on his plans for restarting both La Liga and the Segunda División, as well as mentioning the date he has set for the following season to begin.

“We’ll restart, if God allows, on June 11,” the 57-year-old said. “We’re hoping that Madrid and Barcelona pass into Phase Two [of the lockdown de-escalation plan], which is where we can play.

“There are more than 130 people at LaLiga working so that everything can be done in a new way. Travel, organisation, everything. We’re prepared and the important thing will be the day we finish the league.

“We’ll start next season on September 12.”

Tebas also discussed how he planned to give viewers a choice in how they watch the remaining La Liga matches, which will all be played behind closed doors.

“Tonight, we have audiovisual tests so that the viewer can choose two images: the real one and one with a virtual crowd and crowd noise. We want to give the choice to the fans: silence or a simulation of the crowds. The tests I’ve seen are interesting and really catch your eye, but there will be two options.”

It’s already emerged that the league plan to begin with the Seville derby on 11 June, with ambitious plans to play games every day up until 19 July. This latest announcement from the La Liga president suggests that most teams will have a pre-season break of seven weeks before starting off the following campaign.

The three clubs of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid are also still competing in the unfinished Champions League, which is set to resume in August. Should it get played, the trio could have less than two weeks to prepare for the European club competition after the end of the Spanish league season.

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Gareth Bale Continues Media Trolling With New Football(ish) Training Photo

Gareth Bale
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Wales. Golf. Madrid.

Three words that caused such a stir. Whether it was a media frenzy and an entire fanbase ticked off beyond belief or a collective round of applause and laughter from everyone else, it got plenty of people talking.

While his Real Madrid adventure has taken a rather progressive plummet over the past two seasons, Gareth Bale’s golfing success has only just begun.

Well, not really begun, since Bale has been playing golf for a good number of years. But it’s only really been cast into the limelight as a parallel to his struggles at the Santiago Bernabeu. With his Los Blancos spell taking a turn for the worse, his love of golfing has been used as weapon against him by a certain country’s media.

In times like these, when you’re still a world-class footballer getting paid a shedload of money and living a pretty swanky life, one can presume, sometimes, it’s best just to embrace it.

Bale certainly does that.

As we saw when Wales secured qualification to the upcoming European Championships, the forward had no issue in celebrating wildly with a ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid,’ flag that sought to rank his priorities in order.

It was one man’s answer to a nation’s lambasting, and no matter how ill-judged you may have thought it was, it was bloody funny.

That died down ever so slightly, but the bizarre furore over his love for something else in white has always stayed prevalent. And, in a bid to keep up to date with his one-man battle against media scrutiny, he’s done it again.

With Madrid back in training ahead of La Liga’s resumption, the players took time to pose for a photo. Each member did their best flex, all bar one, of course.

What else was Bale actually going to do?

Gareth BaleGareth Bale
Stu Forster/Getty Images

He’s loving this. You can tell. He couldn’t give less of a s–t about what people think, and we have to commend him for that.

For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!

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