Barcelona finally resume their pursuit of a third consecutive La Liga title tonight when the table-toppers travel to play relegation-threatened Mallorca in an empty Son Moix Stadium.
On paper, this may look like a fun jaunt in the Spanish summer sun to pick up three easy points after the coronavirus-enforced hiatus of more than two months, as Barca look to hold off arch-rivals Real Madrid in the title race.
With 11 games remaining, a victory in the holiday resort will open up a five-point gap over Real, who host Eibar at their 6,000 capacity training ground on Sunday.
However, after such a long time without competitive football and strict protocols in place during limited training sessions, there is nothing being taken for granted by Barca and the Spanish big boys, while the minnows will be eyeing the chance of an upset by taking advantage of any rustiness.
The down side for Mallorca — very much minnows — is that Barca will be at almost full strength as they prepare to make the short trip.
The COVID-19 break has allowed Luis Suarez to recover from injury and fellow forward Antoine Griezmann commented this week that the suspension allowed him and his teammates to recharge their batteries physically and mentally.
Star man Lionel Messi will lead the line from the start against Mallorca, although with games every three days and a Champions League campaign still to play for, coach Quique Setien will be anxious to protect his star player, who was forced to train alone last week due to a muscular problem, while Suarez will be eased back.
One man raring to go is Barca midfielder Frenkie De Jong, who cannot wait to get back on the pitch.
“What you have to understand is I really, really like football,” he said. “It’s not pretend. I enjoy every minute of it.” De Jong’s first season in Spain has been assured, with 23 starts out of 27 in the league before it was suspended. But by his own admission, there is so much more to come and the title race will go to the wire.
“I have played some games and I had a bad period. I never played really badly I don’t think, but I know I can do a lot better. Before the break we weren’t consistent but Madrid weren’t either. There will still be plenty to play for.”
Sevilla 2 Real Betis 0
Granada v Getafe (9pm), Valencia v Levante (midnight)
Espanyol v Alaves (4pm), Celta Vigo v Villarreal (7pm), Leganes v Real Valladolid (9.30pm), Mallorca v Barcelona (midnight)
Athletic Bilbao v Atletico Madrid (4pm), Real Madrid v Eibar (9.30pm), Real Sociedad v Osasuna (midnight)