Despite the absence of a specific date for professional football in Spain to restart, La Liga, headed by Javier Tebas, is confident that there will be no setbacks in this period of accelerated preparation as players from the top two divisions gradually returned to training over the last week.
Malaga returned to individual training on Saturday after all players tested negative for the coronavirus (five tested positive across Primer and Segunda), according to coach Sergio Pellicer. The sessions, organised in groups of four players per pitch (the main pitch at La Rosaleda and the Annex) to better ensure social distancing, are carried out in shifts of 45 minutes, spread throughout the day, significantly increasing the workload of the coaches.
These first sessions, with a focus on running and coordination (but also some touches of the ball) are overseen by Pellicer who moves between the two pitches to monitor the sessions and share instructions with the fitness coaches (Julio Rodríguez in the Annex and Enrique Ruiz in La Rosaleda).
The training programme is very similar to those used during pre-season, though in some cases with a lower intensity given that the players are returning from 57 days training at home and all of its consequent limitations.
All activity around La Rosaleda is also being closely supervised by maintenance staff at the club, responsible for disinfecting all equipment and areas used by the players. What's more, as soon as you enter the stadium, everyone must have their temperature taken, disinfect their hands and put on gloves and a mask. Once on the field, players can take off their masks and while the use of gloves is recommended, some prefer to take them off.
"It's strange," said defender Juankar following the first session. "You're with your teammates, but you're not. You can't have contact with them and you can't joke around or hug them. It's an unusual situation but we have to adapt for everyone's well-being."
Midfielder Renato said: "We're all very happy to be back, even if it's in strange circumstances. It's going to be like pre-season. Some will adapt fast, others will take longer, but we will all be ready in time to play."
La Liga wants to resume on 12 June (mainly to avoid losing ground on the Premier League, which is also scheduled to start on that day) but not all clubs were able to start training at the same time so 19 June looks the most viable option at present.
Javier Tebas confirmed on Sunday that there will be matches every day of the week but with the high temperatures expected in June and July, games will have to start from 8pm onwards. Furthermore, in order to comply with the strict sanitary measures, only one match per day will be analysed in each of the eight VAR control rooms which means that there will be a maximum of eight games played per day between Primera and Segunda.
The league already has designed a schedule for all match days which takes into account the distances that must be travelled by each team. Primera sides will all travel by chartered plane and, as far as possible, Segunda teams too.
To ensure the health of the players, the Spanish Federation (FEF) and La Liga are also in favour of temporarily increasing the number of substitutes permitted from three to five per match - in accordance with the move made official this week by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).
Play-offs and next season
While UEFA has insisted that domestic seasons must finish before the end of July, special dispensation will be made for Segunda's play-offs to take place in the usual format, with two semi-finals and a double-header final finishing on 9 August. As these are not top-flight matches, UEFA will allow them to take place on dates reserved for the Champions League and the Europa League.
The date for the start of the 2020-2021 season has also been set: 12 September. This would give the players a two-week holiday before a five-week pre-season. Talks are still ongoing over scrapping the winter break in order for all campaigns to finish in time for the European Championships in summer 2021.