Soccer

Barca and Real Madrid return to non-contact training in groups of 10

Barcelona and Real Madrid return to non-contact training in groups of 10 as LaLiga clubs ramp up preparations ahead of June 12 resumption… but five-a-side games, free-kick routines and pressing drills are BANNED

  • Clubs throughout LaLiga stepped up their training sessions on Monday morning
  • Barcelona and Real Madrid players were both pictured training in small groups
  • Stars have been instructed to avoid contact and what they can do is limited
  • Government officials have given some clubs permission to train in groups of 10
  • Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio and Luis Suarez are all fit again after injury issues 

Training sessions were stepped up all over Spain on Monday morning but it was still very much: ‘after you; no, after you’ as players were instructed to avoid all physical contact.

Remember those recent revelations from Darren Fletcher that when Walter Smith became Sir Alex Ferguson’s No 2 at Manchester United he introduced training sessions where no fouls were given to toughen up Cristiano Ronaldo? This is as far removed from that as possible.

Players are no longer training on their own. They can train in groups of 10, and they can now pass the ball between themselves but there can be no five-a-sides, no free-kick routine practices and no pressing drills.

Barcelona players take part in non-contact training in a small group on Monday morning

Coaching staff wear face masks as they speak to a group of 10 Barcelona players in training

Real Madrid’s players were also pictured training together after new rules came into play

Players were tested for coronavirus again last Thursday and Friday, and although results have not been made public, Javier Tebas, the president of LaLiga, said on Spanish television on Sunday night: ‘It’s almost impossible that players catch the virus while training.’ 

That suggests a confidence that was also reflected in his reaffirmation that he wants the league to start again on Friday June 12, with games played almost every day until the 11 rounds of fixtures are finished.

For Real Madrid, this is being seen as the perfect chance for them to win a title that seemed to be slipping away from them. 

They have Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio back in training and if the short ‘pre-seasons’ that clubs are now going through give rise to less physical football for the final 11 matches – with players lacking fitness and wary of injury – then they feel that will suit the styles of two forwards they did not think they would be able to use this season.

Barca players were made to avoid contact as lockdown rules in Spain are eased gradually

Antoine Griezmann (left) plays a pass under pressure as one of his team-mates tries to block

Lionel Messi runs during training but players are restricted in terms of how much they can do

Barca manager Quique Setien wears a mask as he watches Messi and Co in action in training

Barcelona also welcome back someone who thought his season was largely over. Luis Suarez was hopeful of making it back for the final games but now he will be fit from the June restart.

There are reservations about football’s return but its importance to the economy has provoked support from the Spanish government.

The plan for clubs to progress to training in groups of 10 this week looked to have hit problems when it became clear that Spain’s gradual relaxation of lockdown had not yet reached the regions of Madrid and Barcelona.

That would have meant training in groups was still banned for many clubs but the government made exceptions so that Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Getafe, Leganes, Barcelona and Espanyol could all stay at the same level of preparation as the rest of LaLiga.

While the countdown continues to the planned resumption of fixtures, Madrid and Barcelona press have little alternative but to focus on the transfer market. Barcelona’s interest in Miralem Pjanic and Lautaro Martinez is very real and both players want to come.

Luis Suarez is fit again after being extra time to recover during the coronavirus shutdown

Stars such as Eden Hazard at Real Madrid could be back in competitive action from June 12

LaLiga chief Javier Tebas says it’s ‘almost impossible’ for stars to catch coronavirus in training

The problem remains: how do Barcelona make it work when what they need to be doing is making money, not spending it? 

They are having the same problems they had last summer. The players they could include in the deal – Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal, Arthur Melo, Nelson Semedo, Rafinha and Carles Alena – either don’t want to leave or are not wanted by Juventus and Inter. Semedo’s sale would also create another problem because the club would be left without a right-back.

Madrid’s transfer market activity looks more likely to be centred on players leaving than arriving. But after Erling Haaland’s weekend performance, it was predictable that he would be back on the front pages. His place in a front three with Eden Hazard and Kylian Mbappe looks the stuff of fantasy in the present climate though.

Karim Benzema took centre stage in many of the pictures coming out of training from Valdebebas on Monday morning. He remains the club’s top scorer, the coach and president’s favourite. 

And for as long as the pandemic shakes the financial foundations of the club, he may continue to be their biggest player.

AS report that Real Madrid want the ‘Trident of the new Bernabeu’ with two new signings




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