Barcelona and Real Madrid resume one of many tightest title races in current reminiscence when La Liga kicks again into motion this week in empty stadiums, after a three-month pause because of the coronavirus pandemic. Just earlier than the season was postponed on March 10, former Real nice Jorge Valdano had likened the 2 groups’ inconsistent type to a race between two limping males, however each side are set to be refreshed and stronger after the lengthy break.
Barca are boosted by the return of Luis Suarez from a knee damage that regarded set to rule him out for the season, and his aggression and energy ought to assist them ease their issues in breaking down sides.
Real will once more benefit from the providers of Eden Hazard after he was sidelined with a fractured ankle in February. Also again is Spain ahead Marcos Asensio, who ought to ease the burden on Karim Benzema, their runaway main scorer with 14 strikes.
Barca, focusing on a 3rd consecutive Spanish title, led Real by two factors when the season was postponed.
The break has additionally given their ageing squad some much-needed relaxation, whereas the additional time on the coaching floor ought to assist them additional adapt to the concepts of coach Quique Setien, who succeeded Ernesto Valverde in January.
With no followers allowed into venues and Real enjoying their house video games on the 6,000-capacity Alfredo Di Stefano stadium whereas the Santiago Bernabeu is being refurbished, it is going to be a title race in contrast to some other.
“We will miss that enhance and help you get from the group, who’ve an enormous affect,” mentioned Setien.
Barca have a barely extra snug run-in of their remaining 11 fixtures within the area of 5 weeks, with house video games towards Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid plus journeys to Sevilla and Villarreal wanting like their hardest video games.
Real, who beat Barca in March solely to blow their lead on the prime by dropping to Real Betis, have 5 doubtlessly difficult fixtures: Valencia, Getafe and Villarreal at house, plus journeys to Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao.
“It could be unusual to say we’re worse than Barca after we beat them simply earlier than we went into confinement,” mentioned Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
“Even although we then misplaced to Betis, I feel we’re in good condition. We’re all actually enthusiastic about beginning the league season once more and combating for the championship and profitable it.”
(Reporting by Richard Martin, modifying by Pritha Sarkar)