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Subdued atmosphere grips new La Liga season

first_imgAfter a brief yet turbulent close-season marked by the attempted departure of Lionel Messi, little transfer activity and the renewed threat of the coronavirus in Spain, La Liga returns on Friday with a decidedly gloomy outlook.Fans are not expected to return to Spanish stadiums until 2021 at the earliest as infection rates continue to rise across the country, depriving the game of the noise and color for which it is renowned.There is also a subdued feeling as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are among six teams missing the opening weekend due to finishing last season late, with the latter three sides also missing the second weekend. Old tensions have resurfaced at institutional level, meanwhile, creating yet more uncertainty.The federation delayed the release of fixtures and this week threatened to block the first match of the season between Granada and Athletic Bilbao due to a ban on Friday matches, although La Liga are certain the game will go ahead.The financial impact of the pandemic, meanwhile, is being keenly felt across the league, even afflicting the wealthiest clubs.Champions Real Madrid, who usually spend their summers parading big money signings at glitzy presentation ceremonies, are not expected to bring in anyone new. Instead they are focusing on recalling loanees such as Martin Odegaard while clearing out unwanted players. Topics :center_img Still, Zinedine Zidane’s side are the favorites to lift the title after last season’s relentless run of 10 straight victories and given the turmoil at Barcelona.Barca may have clung on to Messi after a two-week saga but are still in deep trouble on a sporting, institutional and financial level.President Josep Maria Bartomeu is threatened by a potential vote of no-confidence, while the club are trying to ease a colossal wage bill, shown by their willingness to part with Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal for cut-price deals.New coach Ronald Koeman, a beloved former Barca player but with a patchy record as a club manager, faces a daunting task in reshaping an ageing side whose weaknesses were woefully exposed by the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.Unlike predecessors Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien, the Dutchman will look to impose his authority on a dressing room that many believe has had too much power for too long and it will be fascinating to see how he gels with the players.Hope for Barca comes in excitement around teenage forward Ansu Fati, who recently became Spain’s youngest goalscorer and had a highly promising debut campaign.Sevilla, Villarreal out to challenge AtlánticoAtletico Madrid are used to being Spain’s third force but face competition from Sevilla, who could even challenge the usual suspects in the title race if they build on an excellent season in which they finished fourth and won the Europa League.Sevilla have crucially held together most of their squad after getting accustomed to parting with 10 or more players each summer.Villarreal are also one to watch after recruiting Unai Emery as coach and making some eye-catching signings including midfielders Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin from Valencia plus exciting playmaker Takefusa Kubo, on loan from Real Madrid.Valencia are braced for a testing season after parting with captain Parejo plus Spain forward Rodrigo due to a dire financial situation which meant they were unable to pay their players.Elsewhere, David Silva is back in La Liga for the first time in a decade after joining Real Sociedad, while much-loved Cadiz make a welcome return to the top-flight after a 14-year absence, joining Huesca and Elche in being promoted.last_img read more

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Windies/England Series Rescheduled for July September Window

first_imgHowever, with the United Kingdom one of the worst-hit regions by the virus, ECB chief executive officer Tom Harrison said there was still huge uncertainty over staging any cricket, especially with the major issue of public health taking priority. “Clearly playing in June is now not possible and we will continue our discussions with the ECB and other Internationals Boards on trying to find new dates. We will only travel to England to play the series if our players can be assured that it is safe to do so. “As much as we remain hopeful that we can deliver some cricket this summer, we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis and our priority – over and above the playing of professional sport – will be to protect the vulnerable, key workers and society as a whole. West Indies were scheduled to tour England for three Tests from June 4-29 but the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19, ruled out any chance of the series going ahead as planned. “We continue to be in regular dialogue with the ECB on when and how we might be able to rearrange the Test series,” he said on Friday. The ECB, which had initially delayed the start of its domestic professional season until May 28, said all fixtures affected by the extension would be rescheduled to the new window. Cricket West Indies chief executive, Johnny Grave, remained hopeful the series would be staged during the window but also reiterated that the safety of players and officials was priority. There are hopes by both boards the series can take place in July behind closed doors and under strict quarantine protocols, but the plan is contingent on the severity of the continued impact of COVID-19 on the UK. “Our respective medical teams are beginning to discuss how this series could be played whilst guaranteeing the health and safety of our players and support team. We will be as flexible as we can without compromising the safety of our team.” CMC “Our role as a national governing body during a crisis of this scale requires us to carefully plan alongside cricket’s stakeholders and supporters to attempt to overcome COVID-19’s impact on this season,” Harrison said. In fact, Harrison said the ECB would only go ahead of planned fixtures once it was safe to do so. The UK has so far recorded 143 000 infections and 19 500 deaths and even though Health Secretaty Matt Hancock said last week that infections had reached their peak, social distancing protocols are expected to remain in place for the remainder of the year. “Our plan is to reschedule international matches as late as possible in the season to give the best chance of play.” He added: “Our biggest challenge, along with other sports, is how we could seek to implement a bio-secure solution that offers optimum safety and security for all concerned. The guidance we receive from Westminster will help us shape how we deliver this. BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The England and Wales Cricket Board said Friday the West Indies tour would now take place between July and September, after announcing an extension of its freeze of professional cricket until July 1. “That’s why, simply put, there will be no cricket unless it’s safe to play. Our schedule will only go ahead if Government guidance permits.”last_img read more

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A job advert suggests the “eNFL” could be next

first_imgThe National Football League (“NFL”) has posted a job advert that may suggest the “eNFL” or something similar is on the way. Madden, the American Football sports simulation title has a somewhat nascent esports scene which is run by EA Sports, but with the governing body for the sports league now looking for someone to run the esports side, it’s easy to assume that a collaboration is on the way.We’ve already seen news of the inaugural NBA 2K League which will get underway shortly, and just last week the MLS confirmed the “eMLS” which will see a structured system for EA Sports game FIFA 18 involving the MLS clubs. There is already a competitive scene for Madden, and a content series around it too, so the scene is already there and ready to be developed.The NFL season is heading towards an end currently, with the playoffs taking place as we edge closer to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl attracts a huge audience undoubtedly and it could not be long until part and parcel of the entertainment package is some sports simulation esports. For now, though, it’s all speculation. The job itself is for a person with significant experience. It specifies that a minimum requirement is ten years of work experience, and at least seven in “gaming or a related sector”. The overarching job description reads as follows: “The NFL’s Head of Gaming & eSports will lead the strategic planning, partner management and execution of the League’s gaming efforts across all platforms, including console and mobile games, eSports/competitive gaming and new business development. This person will drive a number of the League’s key franchises, including NFL Madden, towards achieving commercial and fan engagement objectives.” Esports Insider says: More sport simulation news and this is most definitely big. Although at the moment nothing has been released, with the recent MLS news it wouldn’t surprise us at all to see an eNFL emerge. We’re backing the Seahawks.last_img read more

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