Spanish league postpones pair of games because of qualifiers

National Sports

MADRID (AP)Spain’s top sports authority on Tuesday accepted the Spanish league’s request to postpone a pair of weekend matches involving teams with players on international duty with South American nations.

The games between Barcelona and Sevilla and Villarreal and Alaves, originally scheduled for Saturday, will be played at later dates. They have not been rescheduled yet.

The Spanish soccer federation had denied the league’s request but Spain’s sports council ruled in favor of the league’s appeal to postpone the matches. The ruling came in the form of a preventive measure that can still be appealed by the federation, which reiterated its disapproval.

The federation said the postponements create ”a dangerous precedent for international sports” as it would be the ”first time that a domestic league suspended matches because players were called up by their national teams.”

It said in a statement that the council’s decision was ”totally illegal” and that both FIFA and UEFA supported the federation’s stance. The Spanish league later said it was not aware that either soccer entity had expressed any kind of support for the federation.

The league had tried to block players from going to South America’s triple-header of World Cup qualifiers because players would return too close to the resumption of matches in Spain. But the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against the league’s complaint and players were allowed to join their national teams.

FIFA extended the international window to allow South American teams to play a third World Cup qualifier less than two days before domestic leagues were due to resume in Europe.

The Spanish league had already rescheduled some matches from Saturday to Sunday to give players more time to rest, including Real Madrid’s home game against Celta Vigo, which will mark Madrid’s return to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Madrid had been playing at its training center as the Bernabeu underwent renovation during the coronavirus pandemic. The Bernabeu will remain under renovation but it will be reopened with a limited number of fans allowed back in the stands.

The games between Sevilla and Barcelona and Villarreal and Alaves could not be moved to Sunday because Barcelona and Villarreal begin their campaigns in the Champions League on Tuesday. Barcelona hosts Bayern Munich in Group E, while Villarreal hosts Atalanta in Group F.

The Spanish league offered clubs charter flights for affected players so they could return to Spain as soon as possible after playing for their countries.

The Spanish federation, which is often at odds with the league, denied the request to postpone the matches because it didn’t consider the absence of some players a reason good enough to change the schedule.

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