Looking Ahead to the 2020/21 Season

The 2020/21 season is already well underway. In fact it started before the 2019/20 season had even ended.

Even so, it’s extremely difficult to talk about making concrete plans for this season. In La Liga and Segunda it’s more or less accepted that there won’t be any fans allowed back in until somewhere around the midway point of the season. Even lower down, where limited numbers will be permitted, things will be evaluated on a regular basis and of course, there’s the ever-present fear of a second lockdown.

As such, this is a tentative list, things that in an ideal world, I’d love to accomplish this season.

So here we go…

Completing the Tercera (for real this time)

Back in January I stated that one of my objectives for the year was to complete the Communidad de Madrid section of the Tercera before the end of the season.

That obviously didn’t happen.

I was six grounds away from achieving that objective when the season came to an untimely end in March.

And one of the effects of the pandemic was that the Tercera has been expanded to 23 teams, split into two sections one of 12 teams, the other with 11 – so my task just got a whole lot more challenging.

Of the promoted teams, I’ll get to visit Villanueva del Pardillo, who I saw in Hortaleza last December when they were still a Preferente side, Complutense Alcalá, who get the opportunity to lock horns with derby rivals RSD Alcalá and Real Aranjuez, meaning a quick return to a charming town I visited for the first time in the summer.

Then there are the grounds I missed out on last season – mostly to the south of Madrid. El Alamo, Móstoles (with two teams in the one ground), Pinto, Parla, Pozuelo, Paracuellos – I seemed to mostly avoid teams whose names began with P…

And of course I’ll hopefully have time to get to a good few games at my old favourites, Villaverde and Adarve.

Venture Further Down the Leagues

But I’m not going to stop at the Tercera!

The great thing about Madrid is there are just so many teams to potentially watch. And some of my highest-scoring games last season came when I ventured into the Madrid Preferente – the five-goal thriller at Aravaca on DDFM4, the morning at Hortaleza when so much happened in the first 20 minutes, I thought that my all-time record was at risk.

I want to see CD Barajas on their gravel pitch, Betis San Isidro (profiled expertly on his podcast by friend of the blog Roddy Cons), socially conscious and fan-owned Independiente de Vallecas (who also have some of the coolest kits around) and Madrid’s number one English-speaking club, FC Británico.

I’m looking forward to seeing them all and more besides!

And yeah, I’ll go back Canillas to visit their bar’s weird little José Mourinho shrine too!

See More Women’s Football

Something I did for the first time last season was take in a match in Spain’s Women’s league, the Primera Iberdrola.

Back on an unusually sunny and warm Saturday afternoon in January I travelled out to Alcalá de Henares to watch two-time reigning champions Atlético Madrid against Sporting Huelva in their brand-new stadium. The game was a lot more open than the 1-0 scoreline would suggest and great value for money, you don’t get many top flight matches in any sport for €10!

The impressive facilities at Atleti’s Alcalá campus

The Primera Iberdrola is due to resume on 18th October because it has not been designated as professional football – something which the players strongly disagree with. But this could be a blessing in disguise for the womens’ game – fans will be allowed in limited numbers at non-professional football, while the top ranks of the men’s game are playing in empty stadiums, perhaps some people, starved of live football, will give fútbol femenino a go. And if they like what they see, quality football from international class players and tightly-contested matches at a fraction of the cost of La Liga, they might stick with it.

There will undoubtedly be more attention this year because Real Madrid have finally officially joined the league – although they way they did it, by buying out existing club CD Tacón after their promotion last year, has attracted some criticism. It can’t hurt women’s football to have one of the biggest names in the world of football involved, but considering Tacón were tenth when the league was stopped and lost both matches against champions Barcelona by a combined score of 15-1 it might be a bit soon to expect them to emulate their male counterparts.

Watching a bit of the Primera Iberdrola would also give me a chance to watch a reasonably successful Depor team! On that subject…

Watch Depor on the long road back

If you were following the blog over the summer, you’ll know I wrote a rather rambly piece reflecting on the disastrous ending to the season at my first love in Spain, Deportivo La Coruña.

Twenty years ago, Depor started the 2000/01 season as La Liga champions and were arguably even stronger having signed players who would go on to become legends at the club such as Juan Carlos Valerón, Diego Tristán and José Francisco Molina. Now in 2020, they start the season in Segunda B facing SD Compostela, Racing Ferrol and most humiliating of all, Celta’s B team.

The path back to Liga is long and hard. Not for nothing is Segunda B known as el pozo (the well) – it’s easy to fall in, but a lot harder to pull yourself out. But not impossible! In recent years the likes of Mallorca and Elche have gone from Segunda B to La Liga in just a couple of seasons. If they are clever in the transfer market and can get the team gelling well together (and those are both huge ifs) Depor could follow suit.

I visited Coruña in the summer after five years away and it reminded me of how much I loved the city. Even with the team’s fortunes at a low ebb, club colours were everywhere and it really made me want to get back to the Estadio Riazor again. Here’s hoping I can, or even make the slightly shorter trip to my old home in Santiago for that slightly surreal derby with Compostela. Or once the season moves into its second stage, see them in Salamanca or Leon. And who knows, maybe there’ll be a chance to watch them in Madrid in a promotion play-off come the season’s end.

Visit the new Bernabéu

I’ve been walking past the Bernabéu on an almost daily basis over the last few months so I’ve seen the gradual process of the reconstruction of the stadium.

It also bothers me that despite living in this area since last October, I haven’t yet made it to my nearest La Liga stadium. I had planned to go to their Friday night match with Eibar on 13th March but yeah, you know what happened.

There’s a long way to go yet with the renovations – as you can see from the photo which was taken in the first week of September, but with fans unlikely to be allowed back to La Liga matches before Christmas, Madrid have plenty of time to get it ready, while they play their matches at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, normally used by their B team Castilla, up in Valdebebas.

I will miss the old exterior of the stadium, it’s a classic, highly-distinctive look but the new one is growing on me the more I see pictures and videos of what it will look like, such as this one from Madrid’s official Twitter account.

I’d probably say the Bernabéu is one of my favourite big club stadiums I’ve been to in world football (along with the San Siro and the Vicente Calderón) so I’m glad Real Madrid will be staying there long-term and not leaving such an iconic piece of their, and world football’s history behind.

Go Back to Sevilla

I love the city of Sevilla and the people’s passion for its two great football teams – Sevilla and Real Betis.

It also happens to be a favourite city of both myself and my wife Sarah, so if we did go for a trip down there, she might be nice enough to let me fit a match into our schedule.

Sánchez-Pizjuan or Villamarín? It doesn’t really matter which one I go to, they are both wonderful stadiums with superb atmospheres – though Sevilla do have the better anthem and even the most die-hard Beticos would probably have to agree.

Would El Gran Derbí, scheduled for 3rd January and 14th March be too much to ask for? It’s truly a game that’s on my Spanish football bucket list.

Or maybe I could even get a ticket to the Copa Del Rey Final and tick off a new ground – the much derided Estadio Olimpico – to boot!

Actually get to Euro 2020 (and see Northern Ireland there!)

Euro 2020 was one of the biggest casualties in a sporting calendar ravaged by the pandemic, probably second only to the Tokyo Olympics. We were just a few weeks away from the play-offs to decide the final four places at the tournament when football throughout Europe shut down.

So we know the tournament will still be going ahead and the fixtures are unchanged so my ticket will still be for Spain v Northern Ireland/Bosnia/Slovakia/the Republic of Ireland in Bilbao in the final group game.

Now the hard part is for Northern Ireland to keep their end of the bargain. Inspirational manager Michael O’Neill has gone, Stoke City being rather unwilling to let him combine the two jobs for another year instead of a few months as was the original plan. His replacement Ian Baraclough did a great job with the Under-21 team, including masterminding a win away to Spain, but faces a difficult job with many of the heroes of Euro 2016 either retired from international football, lacking first team football or entering the twilight of their careers. The 5-1 home defeat by Norway at the start of September showed up the lack of depth in the NI squad, so October’s play-off with Bosnia will be an extremely tough proposition.

Even if Northern Ireland aren’t there, another chance to experience the Euros would be great, as would the chance to revisit Bilbao in a sunnier month of the year. On my only previous visit in November 2015, it rained so much that I had to go and buy some new clothes as I couldn’t get the ones I’d brought with me dried quickly enough. Plus Athletic were away that weekend so I didn’t get the chance to experience San Mames and the idea of watching Spain play there is highly intriguing.

I can’t lie though, I also want to revisit a particular restaurant which had the bar area filled with countless different types of tortilla and see if it’s still in business.

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