Spanish football is on hold indefinitely due to the Coronavirus outbreak. You can keep track of the latest Covid-19 developments affecting life and football in Spain here. Assuming this season is eventually completed, and the general consensus is that it needs to be, the break could benefit a number of teams who are currently missing key men to injury. The return of those players could have a big impact on the Spanish title race, the battle for Champions League qualification and the relegation scrap.
La Liga Injuries – When are players due back?
The Title Race
1st Barcelona – 58 points
|Sergi Roberto||Groin||End of March|
|Arthur||Ankle||Start of April|
|Ousmane Dembele||Hamstring – recovering from surgery||Early August|
2nd Real Madrid – 56 points
|Thibaut Courtois||Groin||End of March|
|Marcelo||Hamstring||Start of April|
|Eden Hazard||Ankle||Start of April|
|Marco Asensio||Knee||Start of April|
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid are currently missing some key men to injury so this break should help both clubs get players back to fitness. Certainly in terms of their Champions League campaigns, they ought to be in a much stronger position by the time their last 16, 2nd Leg matches are eventually played.
As for the title race, who benefits most will depend largely on exactly when we restart. An earlier restart would benefit Real Madrid who should have Thibaut Courtois, Marcelo, Eden Hazard and even long-term absentee Marco Asensio fit again within the next month. The likelihood that teams will need a couple of friendlies to build up some match sharpness again could be a real blessing for somebody like Asensio.
A longer break could help Barcelona more. They should have Sergi Roberto and Arthur back imminently but the two big ones are Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. There was some talk that Suarez had played his last game for the club when he suffered a serious knee injury in January. He now looks set to be able to play a major part in the club’s run-in to a season which looks certain to extend at least into June.
Ousmane Dembele is a longer-term absentee though. He may benefit from a delayed start to next season however the Frenchman is no longer a registered member of Barcelona’s 2019/20 squad following the emergency signing of Martin Braithwaite. Therefore under the current rules, he’d not be allowed to feature should this season restart even if he regains fitness.
Read more – Luis Suarez, unfillable shoes
? — Luis Suarez’s for Barcelona:
? 270 games
⚽️ 191 goals
? 13 trophies
Can’t wait to see him back. pic.twitter.com/9lnm7JswoJ
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 15, 2020
The Battle for Champions League Football
3rd Sevilla – 47 points
4th Real Sociedad – 46 points
5th Getafe – 46 points
|David Timor||Broken Ankle||Early April|
6th Atletico Madrid – 45 points
|Renan Lodi||Head||Late March|
|Alvaro Morata||Hip||Early April|
7th Valencia – 42 points
|Kang-in Lee||Sprained Ankle||End of March|
|Manu Vallejo||Foot||End of March|
|Cristiano Piccini||Knee||End of March|
|Maxi Gomez||Broken Foot||Early April|
|Eliaquim Mangala||Thigh||Early April|
Valencia are the Spanish club most affected by the coronavirus outbreak with 35% of their playing and coaching staff who made that ill-advised trip to northern Italy last month having tested positive. Health matters clearly are far more important than football at a time like this but ultimately Los Che look like they could be one of the teams that really benefits from a delay to the season.
Injuries have had a huge negative impact on them over the last couple of months but the likes of Maxi Gomez, Cristiano Piccini and Kang-in Lee should be available by the time football eventually restarts and that may help them get back into serious Champions League contention. Key centre-back Ezequiel Garay, who has the coronavirus as well as a serious knee injury, is not expected back until August though so is unlikely to feature unless there are any further delays.
As for the other teams in the race for 3rd and 4th, there are no sides suffering from such severe injury problems. Atleti were just starting to enjoy the benefits of having a number of players back and will have Renan Lodi available again by the time things restart. The break should also allow Real Sociedad skipper Asier Illarramendi the chance to feature in the run-in to the season. He hasn’t played since breaking his leg in the Basque derby at the end of August with surgery revealing further complications. He may also now be able to feature in the Copa del Rey Final but will face a battle just to get into a Real Sociedad midfield that is functioning well in his absence.
Sevilla and Getafe have no significant long-term injury problems but the former will certainly have Fernando fit and available again by the time we start playing football again which is a boost. Geta may have virtually a fully fit squad but they will be without no fewer than four players due to suspension (Maksimovic, Mata, Arambarri & Etxeita) when they next play in La Liga.
— Asier Illarramendi (@illarra4) March 17, 2020
The Relegation Scrap
15th Real Valladolid – 29 points
No significant injuries to report.
16th Eibar – 27 points
|Pedro Bigas||Hamstring||Early April|
17th Celta Vigo – 26 points
|Juan Hernandez||Hip||Late March|
|Denis Suarez||Ankle||Late March|
18th Mallorca – 25 points
|Baba Rahman||Knee||Late March|
19th Leganes – 23 points
|Roberto Rosales||Muscle||Late March|
20th Espanyol – 20 points
|Marc Roca||Tendon||Late March|
|Sabastien Corchia||Meniscus||Late March|
At the bottom of La Liga, most clubs have the usual one or two minor injuries that should have cleared up comfortably by the time the season resumes. Therefore there doesn’t look to be one team that will benefit considerably more than the others.
A bigger implication for teams at the bottom may come in the event that the season extends past 30th June when many players’ contracts run out. This is also the expiry date for many loan deals with a number of these teams having many loanees amongst their ranks. While we could see some temporary extensions or even players agreeing to play on in the circumstances, that’s certainly something to keep an eye on as under the current rules, several clubs could see their squads decimated by contract expiries.
Teams would also in theory be able to sign new players on 1st July, so a club with deeper pockets such as Espanyol might be tempted into diving into the market again which may also have an impact. Leganes meanwhile should finally be allowed to sign a striker having lost Martin Braithwaite in such controversial circumstances to Barcelona only to be denied the chance to buy an emergency replacement of their own. These complications though, mean La Liga and all the other European leagues will be keen to conclude the season by the end of June if at all possible.