Barca and Real title race, Costa… the issues ahead of LaLiga return

Barcelona and Real Madrid’s title race might go down to head-to-head records, Diego Costa’s importance to Atletico Madrid’s financial future and Mallorca will be eyeing a great escape… the big issues ahead of LaLiga’s restart on Thursday

  • LaLiga finally gets back underway on Thursday after the coronavirus suspension 
  • There will be a huge 110 matches played in the space of just 35 days after return
  • There is still a tight race for the title, with Barcelona leading by just two points
  • Real Madrid are in prime position to catch them, and do have a favourable run-in 
  • Sportsmail has taken a look at the key questions ahead of LaLiga’s restart 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

LaLiga returns on Thursday after the enforced break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 110 matches left to be played in just 35 days and there are a number of key issues still to be resolved in the Spanish top flight. 

Sportsmail has taken a look at all the big battles ahead: Who will win the league? Who will make the Champions League? Who will qualify for the Europa League? Who will go down? Who finishes as top-scorer, and who will go down as the man of the 2019-20 campaign?

Barcelona and Real Madrid will be in a battle for LaLiga title when the league returns

Who will finish as the champions?

Barcelona have a two-point advantage but if the teams finish level at the end of the season Real Madrid will win the league on head-to-head goal difference. 

Real Madrid have Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio back to help Karim Benzema in attack. Madrid have scored 14 fewer goals than Barcelona this season. Their return might help Madrid close that gap but the bad news for them is Barcelona have Luis Suarez available. 

There is nothing in it when it comes to run-ins: Barcelona have to play Atletico Madrid at home and Sevilla away. Real Madrid have to go to Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad. The stadium factor could be key. The Nou Camp, even when empty, can impose itself on rival teams. 

The two sides are in such a tight position at the top that head-to-head could still play a part

Madrid are playing their season out in the 6,000 capacity stadium of their B-team. When Eibar turn up there at the weekend it will seem like a home from home for the visitors. 

Barcelona have Messi of course, but his priority is the Champions League. Will he time his peak to fit that rather than these first few games of the 11-match run-in? 

Zidane desperately wants the league and his team’s away form is better than Barcelona’s. 

Karim Benzema will have both Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio back to support him

There are so many variables it’s so hard to call but Barcelona’s team spirit might wobble if they get a couple of bad results. 

Constant speculation over players’ futures will come to the fore. 

Don’t bet against them ending up level with Madrid, who will therefore take the title on head to head goal average.

Will Getafe qualify for the Champions League?

Not as it stands, no. They are level on points with Real Sociedad but lay fifth on goal difference. 

That said, the head to head goal difference will kick-in at the end of the season and that should favour Getafe who beat Real Sociedad earlier in the season in San Sebastian and host them in a couple of weeks. 

Both clubs could squeeze into the Champions League if third-placed Sevilla fall away. 

Julen Lopetegui’s side were not in the best of form when the league stopped but they do have a big squad to cope with the concentration of games and they are free from Europa League football at the moment.

Getafe still have hopes of qualifying for the Champions League when the season resumes

And why are Atletico Madrid not in this conversation?

Because they are sixth at the moment and heading for a potentially disastrous Europa League finish. 

If Madrid’s season hangs on how well Hazard comes back, and if Barcelona’s season depends on how well Luis Suarez comes back, then Atletico’s fate could depend on Diego Costa. 

Is he really back to his physically intimidating best? That is what the whispers around the club say. If it’s true and if, buoyed by their win over Liverpool, they can find their form then they should still make a run for the top four. 

It would be a shame for Diego Simeone’s sidekick Mono Burgos’ goodbye season to end in anti-climax. The rambunctious No 2 is going off to be a No 1 somewhere in the summer. 

He’ll want to make sure they barge their way past at least two other teams to make top four.

Diego Costa and his fitness will be key to Atletico Madrid qualifying for the Champions League

Is anybody happy with Europa League qualification? 

Not this year. It will be a huge disappointment to Getafe if, just like last year, they spend all night dancing with Cinderella and then go home with one of the ugly sisters. 

And if Real Sociedad fail to take the other Champions League spot they will be equally peeved. 

For Sevilla and Atletico it won’t just be a let-down – it will be financially cataclysmic. 

The only team who will be glad to be there will be Valencia. They are heading for seventh and will be relieved at making Europe after a disappointing season.

Real Sociedad will be peeved if they are unable to take a Champions League spot this season

Can Mallorca mastermind a great escape? (or Leganes… or Espanyol)

Those three will go down as things stand but none are completely cut-adrift and there are plenty of teams further up the table who could slide into trouble. 

Osasuna are 11th but have a long injury list that includes their top scorer and best player, Chimy Avila. 

Levante are 13th but are another side who cannot play their remaining fixtures at home. Ronaldo’s Valladolid and little Eibar could also be sucked in if one of the bottom three starts picking up points.

Who will end up as LaLiga’s top scorer?

It ought to be Messi. If he stays fit, it definitely will be Messi, who has 19 goals in the league so far this season. 

He has won the last three top scorer awards on the bounce. The last to win four was Hugo Sanchez. 

He also wants to add to his six Golden Shoes but he has some work to do to catch Robert Lewandowski, who has 11 goals more. The closest to Messi in Spain is Benzema, with 14 goals.

And who will be named man of the season?

That may well end up being Messi too. 

But if Eden Hazard can return from his third injury of the season, the one that looked to have ruled him out for the rest of the campaign, then his name will be written all over this strangest of campaigns when the trophy is handed to Madrid on the last day.

Eden Hazard has been hit with injuries all season yet will hope to have a significant influence

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