Football is slowly inching towards normalcy all across the globe after having been brought to a standstill by the COVID-19 pandemic in March.. After the resumption of the Bundesliga, La Liga is all set to follow suit this weekend.
The Bundesliga led the way by becoming the first major European football league to resume since the COVID-19 outbreak. It set an example to the other leagues across the continent about successfully organising football games without compromising on the health of players and officials.
It is not expected to be a smooth ride for La Liga teams who face the daunting task of completing a cumulative 110 matches in just 39 days.
A plethora of changes will feature in the Spanish top-flight when action restarts tonight after a near three-month break. On that note, let us have a look at the five major changes in La Liga that will be seen during the remainder of the season.
Five major changes to be introduced in the La Liga for the rest of the 2019-20 season:
1. Virtualisation of stands and a plethora of broadcast innovations
The biggest and most obvious change that will be seen in the remaining La Liga fixtures of the season will be the absence of fans in stadiums. Since the threat of COVID-19 has not completeley abated, not more than 250 fans will be allowed in stadiums.
To ensure that fans do not miss out on the excitement of La Liga fixtures, the competition will implement innovations in two main areas: virtualisation of stands and fan audio as well as new camera angles that will offer never-seen-before shots to viewers.
For these broadcasts, the stands will be virtualised and would offer to-scale images of seated fans wearing the colours of the home club. La Liga has collaborated with Norwegian company VIZRT in this regard.
EA SPORTS FIFA will provide the virtual sound as part of a project called 'Sounds of the Stands'. It is real sound recorded from various football arenas across the globe and would be implemented as per the real-time happenings on the pitch.
2. Applause to Infinity project
La Liga president Javier Tebas announced last week about starting a special initiative called the 'Applause to Infinity' project. That will involve fans from all over the world paying tribute to the heroes fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will also ensure that fans' presence is not missed in the stadium when the clubs get out on the pitch. A website has been launched by La Liga where fans from all over the world can send in their recording of applause. That will be compiled as a single track and played in stadiums in the 20th minute of every game.
The players, referees and staff of teams will observe a minute's silence before kick-off in every match in memory of the victims of COVID-19.
3. Games on every single day of the week
Yes, you read that right! To finish the 2019-20 La Liga campaign on time without affecting the schedule of the next season, teams will play a cumulative 110 games in a period of 39 days.
As a result, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has allowed for games to take place on Monday night, something that was banned by a court ruling at the beginning of the season.
It has been made mandatory that each La Liga team will play a game after a rest period of minimum 72 hours. In other words, a La Liga team plays a game every fourth day. With a whopping 110 games to be completed in 39 days, La Liga organisers are left with little choice but to have at least one game every day.
4. La Liga teams allowed to make five substitutions every game
La Liga's return is expected to take a heavy toll on the fitness levels of players, as they face a packed schedule in the coming days at a time when the summer season would be at its peak in Spain.
To minimise the adverse effects of an unforgiving schedule and extreme weather conditions, teams will be permitted to make up to five substitutions, as opposed to three in a regular La Liga season.
As a result, the maximum squad list size has been increased to 23. Clubs with depth in their squads will benefit in such a scenario, while smaller clubs will have to be astute in making the changes.
5. No home advantage for clubs, Real Madrid not to play at Santiago Bernabeu
Without fans in the stands, most of the games might be akin to training exercises for the players. With no home crowd, home advantage for La Liga teams will only be of academic interest.
Apart from the lack of fans, another change for Los Blancos is that they won't be playing their home games at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Instead, they will be played at their 6000-seating capacity training ground, the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, as their main stadium is undergoing a renovation.
Levante won't have access to their home games due to the same reason.
As per the stats from Bundesliga, in the games played since 16 May, wins for home teams have gone down by almost 50% and away teams have seen a marginal increase in wins as compared to pre-lockdown stats. A similar scenario could pan out in the La Liga as well.
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