Former La Liga striker Diego Forlan likens Spanish football resumption to World Cup format
With teams playing around once every three days, former Villarreal and Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan believes La Liga’s restart will resemble a World Cup tournament, and teams that have trained best in the past month will prevail if they can avoid injuries.
Spain’s top division resumes on Thursday (June 11) when Sevilla host Real Betis behind closed doors after a three-month coronavirus-enforced hiatus, and there will be matches every day until July 19 as clubs play their remaining 11 games.
However, compared to the Bundesliga, which had around six weeks of full team training before it resumed on May 16, La Liga would have had fewer than four weeks to prepare, with players like Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi picking up a thigh injury last week.
In a conference call with Singapore media on Wednesday, Forlan said that the league would have done its due diligence considering the circumstances and the need to complete the season.
The La Liga ambassador told The Straits Times: “With this type of schedule, it is not going to be easy for the players… so it will be interesting to see how they will perform, be safe, and try to play all the games.
“Maybe we will see more injuries… this is something new for everybody. The good thing is they are not doing this for the whole year.”
The former Uruguay international, who played at the 2014 World Cup under hot and humid conditions in Brazil, agreed that heat will be also be a factor, as some La Liga matches will be played in the afternoon to suit television audiences in Asia.
La Liga Singapore shared that these games are assigned to teams in the north of Spain, where temperatures are typically cooler.
Nevertheless, the Spanish Football Players’ Association had called for cooling breaks during games when temperatures are between 28 and 32 deg C, and for training and matches to be postponed when temperatures rise above 32 deg C, which is common in the height of summer.
In an interview with global media last week, former Barcelona and Atletico winger Luis Garcia said: “The first match (back) is going to be difficult because of the heat. It will be a little difficult to adapt in some situations as there will be no friendly games because of less time.”
Forlan agreed “that the break might be a bit complicated for the players because the season was moving to the business end when it was suddenly halted”.
Now a manager with Uruguayan side Penarol where he began his youth career, Forlan could empathise with players who are concerned about the risk of Covid-19 transmission, as well as Barcelona’s Gerard Pique, who wondered last month if La Liga’s return could be pushed back.
He said: “This is not an easy situation. You have to understand the players and the reasons if they don’t want to play. You don’t have to (force) someone in this case, because if you do so, he is not going to play his best and it is not going to be good for the team.
“In this case, you have to talk to the guy and know why he doesn’t want to play. Maybe he has a family to take care of and it is dangerous for them. You try to do everything you can to make him feel safe, so he can play his best.”
As for the delicately poised title race, Forlan tipped Real Madrid to capitalise on their strength in depth to overcome a two-point deficit and topple Barcelona for their first league triumph since 2017.
The 41-year-old said: “Barcelona have a shorter squad and Real Madrid have a more experienced bench. Those young Barcelona players can do really well, or their key players can stay fit and play until the end of the season with the same team. But Real Madrid have a little bit of advantage.”