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La Liga Preview – Suspension of Play Threatens End of Season

With a potentially fatal strike on the horizon, there’s still a title up-for-grabs in La Liga this weekend.

Play Suspension Looming

Before going into any detail over this weekend’s La Liga fixtures, let’s address the recent news of a domestic football stoppage in Spain. It all began on April 30 when the Spanish government passed a new law regarding TV rights.

Under this law, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) would be forced to sell broadcasting rights collectively by league. This differs from the previous manner in which La Liga clubs could handle their own TV deals individually. Critics would say that the “old” way allows giants Real Madrid and Barcelona to financially accumulate in ways other clubs cannot.

This new law has resulted in the RFEF’s suspension of all domestic football matches starting May 16. This stoppage will seemingly affect the final two weeks of La Liga play, as well as the Copa del Rey final to be played on May 30.

The details of this law (that still needs to be approved by Parliament) gets more to the reasons why RFEF are so upset. The new ruling would mean that RFEF will only receive 4.55 percent of all TV revenue. In addition to the money hit, RFEF also claims to be offended that they weren’t contacted to assist in the negotiations of the bill.

RFEF aren’t the only ones ticked off at the new law. La Liga’s players’ union (AFE) also threatened to strike earlier in the week — a decision supported most notably by Lionel Messi and Xabi Alonso. The union, like the FA, claim to be unsatisfied with the players’ revenue share, as well as being left out of negotiations.

Miguel Cardenal, Spain’s Secretary of Sport, has firmly opposed this strike, even claiming that it is “an insult to Spanish democracy and the rule of law.” Cardenal also insists that the new law “gives money where there wasn’t any, to, for example, the women’s game and the Segunda and Segunda B.”

On the surface, the new law has been well received by fans who believe La Liga’s uneven revenue streams hurt the competition. Nevertheless, there’s a real worry over the Spanish government’s continual interference into these democratic sporting matters. Right or wrong, slippery slope or not, it’s a reality that needs to be confronted. Perhaps, as we’ve seen countless times over the years in countless countries, a work stoppage could be the way to the light.

SOCCER: MAY 06 Champions League - Bayern Munich at Barcelona

Mad Messi Awaits La Real

Fresh off a year-defining win against Bayern Munich midweek, Barcelona will welcome Real Sociedad to Camp Nou on Saturday, as they move closer to regaining their coveted La Liga title.

Barca did lose this reverse fixture in January at the Anoeta, a place the Catalans have come to dread. This one is an entirely different ballgame for two reasons. One: it’s at Camp Nou. And two (and most importantly): Lionel Messi.

It’s not that Messi wasn’t around in the January encounter. He played in that game and was still the best player on the pitch and Earth. Messi has spent the last couple of days transforming into metaphysical form right before our eyes. Just ask Pep Guardiola, Manuel Neuer, and, ahem, Jerome Boateng.

Messi’s dismantling of Bayern Munich on Thursday has already been immortalized on the Internet to exasperating and exhilarating degrees. His first goal — a deft near-post finish past the previously glowing Neuer — echoed through Catalunya, while his second — an audacious, ankle-shattering masterpiece and one of his greatest ever — resonated through eternity. It may have taken him 80-plus minutes to get on the record against Bayern, but when he did, he etched his name in stone.

That’s the “man” La Real will be facing on Saturday. It won’t comfort the Basques to also know that the majority of the team are playing the football of their lives as well. Good luck, Moyesy.

Carlo’s Decisions

Real Madrid will look to bounce back from their midweek loss to Juventus on Saturday when they welcome Valencia to the Bernabeu. Both sides will have it all to play for, as Madrid look to gain ground on league-leaders Barcelona, while Los Che will look to retain their fourth-place Champions League spot for next season.

Sometimes the late-season grind can bring out the best and weirdest decisions out of a manager. Carlo Ancelotti’s recent choice to deploy Sergio Ramos in midfield has been one of his most quizzical since residing in the capital.

Usually a purveyor of pragmatic alterations, the Italian’s favor of the cultured centre-half over the midfield stylings of Asier Illarramendi and Lucas Silva is a peculiar pull. It doesn’t mean Ramos isn’t capable of someday anchoring a midfield set-up, but such a shuffle would typically be saved for either an early-season experiment or a last resort for a big game. This doesn’t seem like either. Nor does it seem to be working domestically or continentally.

The other debatable issue surrounds the usage of Chicharito Hernandez, whom Ancelotti left out midweek in favor of a Ronaldo/Bale two-man strikeforce. Like the Ramos experiment, it didn’t work. The strategy largely depleted Madrid’s speed-focused flank play in favor of a frontline link-up that didn’t really exist. One would expect the in-form Hernandez to be slotted back into the lineup against Valencia.

There’s simply no more time for musical chairs; both Ancelotti and Madrid need nothing but wins from here on out.

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