LaLiga unveils a first fixture list revision since 1929
The second half of the 2018-19 LaLiga season gets underway on Friday with the fixture between Getafe and Alavés, which doesn’t sound like a particualry important game but is to a certain extent, whatever the result turns out to be. It will mark the first time since the Spanish top flight, which was formed in 1929, will not mirror the same 19 fixtures in the second half of the season as the first. Getafe and Alavés have already played each other in Vitoria, not in the opening round of fixtures but in week six of the competition, which is match day that this weekend (round 20) exactly corresponds to. And the group of fixtures that opened the 2018-19 season? The return games of that weekend will be played in the week 34 of the campaign, an imbalance that will have the traditionalist supporter up in arms.
What is the reason behind doing this? In short, it is to avoid our European competitors coming up against each other in draining league matches during January, which is also populated by the latter stages of the Copa del Rey, to be in optimum conditions for the rigours of the Champions League and Europa League. In the same way that the first half of the season is arranged with the Clásico pre-ordained to be neither too early in the fixture list nor too close to Christmas, as has been the case in recent years, the second half of the season has been drawn up with “inappropriate” overlaps between European quarter-finals and domestic games between the biggest Liga clubs to be avoided.
The idea has been gestating since the “Storm of Clásicos” that erupted when José Mourinho’s Madrid and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona played five times over the course of two weeks, with all of the exhaustion that caused. The new system is designed to prevent something like that happening again. I have found it strange to watch so many LaLiga seasons played out in perfect symmetry before and after Christmas but I still see it as a perfectly reasonable method, and applaud the prudence of ensuring that the last four rounds of the season will remain the same as in the first half of 2018-19 to avoid any potential skullduggery. But there’s always something that slips through; in this case a Seville derby on Palm Sunday. Next year they’ll have to refine the system even further.