Doubts over season’s end

The presenter of El Punt Avui TV’s The Week in Football, Barney Griffiths, takes a look at how the Spanish football authorities have reacted to the health crisis and the top Catalan clubs’ latest games

Despite the coronavirus crisis hitting the world of sport hard, with many competitions cancelled, following a meeting in mid-March La Liga announced the possibility of restarting the current campaign before summer to ensure the champions would be decided on the pitch. One of the dates being studied for the restart was April 24. Since European competitions were scheduled for April 28-29 and May 5-6, missed days would be regained by playing midweek when there were no European matches. Games would continue to be held behind closed doors in this scenario. Another proposed date was the first weekend of May, with the hope that if things had returned to a certain level of normality, games could be played with spectators present. And the last proposed date was May 12, with La Liga thinking the competitions could be finished before the start of the European Championships. Matches would be played midweek and at weekends, and the league would end on June 7. Since then, however, UEFA has suspended the Euros until next summer, and the latest news from La Liga president Javier Tebas was that Europe’s top leagues and competitions are planning to resume in mid-May.


This will of course come as a blow to Barça fans, whose side again top the table following the only two games to be played in March. The first of those was the latest Clásico at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium, where then leaders Barça went down 2-0 in a timid display to allow Zidane’s side to leapfrog them to the top of the league. Goals from Vinicius and substitute Mariano caused the damage, although in truth Barça failed to threaten in an uninspiring performance.

The good news is that Barça’s home form remained solid a week later, as Valverde’s men saw off Real Sociedad 1-0 to make it 13 wins and one draw from the 14 league games played at the Camp Nou this season. The victory came thanks to a highly controversial Messi penalty awarded for handball by VAR in the 81st minute, leaving Barça back at the top of the table thanks to Madrid’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Betis the same weekend. As the season came to a grinding halt, Barça held a two-point advantage over their arch rivals with 11 games to play.


The break in and possible end of the season might not be so unwelcome for the city’s other top-flight football team, Espanyol, given their dire situation. Propping up the league on 20 points from 27 games, the periquitos did manage one point from their two games in March, a creditable 1-1 home draw with Atlético that they looked like they might even win after a good first half saw them take the lead through a Savic own goal on 24 minutes. But ultimately a point was all they could muster against a Simeone side distracted by its imminent trip to Anfield in the Champions League the following Tuesday, where they knocked out holders Liverpool. Sadly for Abelardo’s men, their poor away form and terrible disciplinary record came back to haunt them in their next game. The truth is they were already a goal down against Osasuna when goalkeeper Diego López was sent off, but that made four red cards in the previous five away games. Espanyol fans will be hoping this season will be written off as null and void, as unlikely as that seems.


The push for a promotion play-off place continued for Girona in March, although two 1-1 draws from their two games will be at least a couple of points short of what they were aiming for. A draw from the away game at Mirandes on March 1 was not a bad result, but Marti’s men would have expected to take all three points against Albacete at Montilivi, especially after taking a first-half lead in a game they seemed to have under control. Such profligacy, attributed in the local press to over-confidence, will not serve them well, and if they are to finish in the play-off places then games like this will need to be put to bed much more ruthlessly.


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