Following the successful return of the Bundesliga last month, the rest of Europe’s elite divisions (Ligue 1’s not elite, have a day off) decided it was time to emerge from the wilderness after Covid-19 grounded, well, everything to a halt in March.
17 June marks the return of the Premier League, while Serie A makes its comeback three days later. Coming as soon as next week, however, is La Liga, with the Seville derby scheduled to be the first fixture back on 11 June.
It promises to be a thrilling climax in Spain with title races, Champions League places and tickets to the Segunda all up for grabs.
Thus, as we return to a wee bit of normality from a sporting perspective, here are few narratives to keep a look out for when La Liga returns…
It’s fair to say Barcelona and Real Madrid have been mere shadows of their imperious best this term, yet they’re still comfortably the two supreme outfits. Sevilla are nine points adrift in third.
But hey, after the Catalans waltzed to back-to-back titles under Ernesto Valverde, at least we’ve got a title race on our hands.
Quique Setien’s men currently hold a two point advantage over Zinedine Zidane’s side despite tasting defeat in the Clasico two weeks before the suspension. Los Blancos, though, will feel confident about making up the deficit in the remaining 11 games.
They have superior depth compared to their Clasico counterparts and will welcome back Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio from long-term injury. Luis Suarez, however, is ready to wreak havoc as well, baby.
It’s anyone’s game.
God, this has the potential to be some story.
After almost almost a year of battling injury and riling up almost everybody associated with Real Madrid, could Gareth Bale be the man to spearhead Los Blancos’ late season surge to glory?
The Welshman’s only been able to muster 14 league appearances this term as a result of several fitness issues, but should have a key role to play in Zidane’s side when La Liga restarts – providing he shakes off a minor foot issue.
And who knows, could these be his final few outings in Madrid colours?
A fantastic summer window by Real Sociedad has thrust them into top-four contention following a ninth place finish last time out.
While Martin Odegaard has been the star attraction (and rightly so), Portu (15 La Liga goal contributions) and Alexander Isak (seven league goals) have also represented more pieces of astute business.
And under the tutelage of Imanol Alguacil, La Real have evolved into an incredibly dynamic and exuberant outfit. Former Newcastle great Mikel Merino has emerged as one of the finest box-to-box midfielders in Europe this term (seriously), while Mikel Oyarzabal has continued to excel.
They’re one of the most exciting sides to watch in the division and currently occupy fourth spot on goal difference. However, with six of their remaining fixtures coming against sides in the top half, Imanol’s side face a tough task of securing just their third Champions League berth.
Jose Bordalas is a name who won’t catch the attention of the broader footballing world because, well, he does it his own way. None of this philosophical nonsense.
The job he’s done at Getafe has been nothing short of majestic and after barely missing out on Champions League qualification last time out, the Azulones are back in contention – currently being Sociedad’s closest contenders in fifth.
Bordalas’ style is straight-up Diego Simeone; an incredibly well-drilled and intense 4-4-f*cking-2, direct and vertical in attack, while also dominant from set pieces.
They’ve been spot on from a tactical perspective, and it’s always refreshing to see a side like this Getafe outfit ruffle a few feathers. How ya coping, Erik ten Hag?
Lucas Perez. In other words; Arsene Wenger’s greatest regret in management.
And not because he decided to buy him for £17m from Deportivo in 2016, but becasue he never played him! This boy’s a cold-blooded killer in front of goal.
Okay, maybe that’s all complete hyperbole, but there’s no doubting Perez is enjoying a stellar season at Alaves this term – with his goals steering the ship for a side many tipped to go down in pre-season.
The Spaniard’s 11 goals rank him joint-third in the La Liga scoring charts and his form may take the interest of despairing Gooners… or Hammers.
What has happened to Espanyol this season?!
After sealing a Europa League berth under the guidance of Rubi last season, the Periquitos’ decline this term has been dramatic. They currently sit rock bottom of La Liga on 20 points, six adrift of safety.
The club’s failure to competently replace the departing Rubi – they’re now onto their third manager of the season after David Gallego and Pablo Machin were sacked before the turn of 2020 – has been key in their demise.
Persistent individual errors and a porous backline have also played a role. Mario Hermoso, meanwhile, has proved a detrimental loss.
Nevertheless, this is a side which fit the ‘they’re too good to go down’ category and their bid for survival will be an intriguing watch.