After 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 colour 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.

Spanish clubs allowed five substitutions next season

Old tensions have resurfaced at institutional level, meanwhile, creating yet more uncertainty.

The federation delayed the release of fixtures and this week threatened to…

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