Spanish clubs now allowed to train with groups of 14 players

FILE – Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (R) kicks a ball during a training session at the Joan Gamper training ground in Sant Joan Despi in the outskirts of Barcelona on February 29, 2020 on the eve of the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. (Photo by PAU BARRENA / AFP)

MADRID — Spanish league clubs are now allowed to train with groups of up to 14 players as the league stays on track to restart in less than three weeks.

Only 10 players were allowed in group training last week because of confinement restrictions that are gradually being lifted across the hard-hit southern European nation where nearly 30,000 people have died with COVID-19.

Group training sessions are part of the penultimate phase before teams can be considered ready to return to competition. Full squad sessions are expected to begin next week, depending on how the coronavirus pandemic progresses.

“We’ve gone through some very difficult and complicated moments during this pandemic and we don’t want to jump the gun,” Spanish league president Javier Tebas said late Sunday in his weekly interview with league broadcaster Movistar.

Players were only allowed to practice individually during the first stage of training.

Tebas said the competition is expected to resume without fans on June 11 — a Thursday — with the Seville derby. He said the popular first-division match between rivals Sevilla and Real Betis would be a good way to mark the return to competition and “honor those who have lost their lives” during the pandemic in Spain.

Tebas said it remains impossible to guarantee the June 11 start date because the decision ultimately depends on how the pandemic and the training phases progress. That would be nearly three months after soccer came to a halt in Spain and most

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No fans, no protesters as Leipzig beats Mainz

Leipzig’s Timo Werner in action with 1.FSV Mainz 05’s Moussa Niakhate during a German Bundesliga soccer match between FSV Mainz 05 and RB Leipzig in Mainz, Germany, Sunday, May 24, 2020. (Kai Pfaffenbach/pool via AP)

BERLIN — Leipzig seemed to enjoy playing in an empty stadium with no protesters as it routed host Mainz 5-0 to move third in the Bundesliga on Sunday. Germany forward Timo Werner scored a hat trick.

Leipzig has got used to protests from rival fans due to its support from backer Red Bull. The energy drinks manufacturer founded the club in 2009 and helped finance its steady progress through the lower leagues to the Bundesliga.

Many fans object to what they claim is a distortion of fair competition. Leipzig players have been regularly whistled at away grounds, and Union Berlin supporters even held a “funeral march” for soccer before their team’s game in Leipzig earlier this season.

But supporters have been banned from Bundesliga games for the rest of the season in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic. The league resumed amid strict hygiene measures last weekend.

Werner opened the scoring in the 11th minute, and there were more goals from Yussuf Poulsen and Marcel Sabitzer before the break. Werner grabbed two more in the second half.

Leipzig, which beat Mainz 8-0 in front of its own fans earlier this season, took advantage of Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 3-1 loss at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday as it stayed three points behind second-place Borussia Dortmund. Fourth-place Leverkusen is a point behind Leipzig, with Gladbach a point further back, in the race for Champions League qualification. The top four qualify in Germany.

DELAYED DEBUT

After waiting 75 days, Heiko Herrlich finally made his debut in charge of Augsburg in a 3-0 win at Schalke earlier Sunday.

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Bundesliga player ignores virus protocols to hug ‘life-saver’ manager

Back row LtoR: Azerbaijan’s defender Maksim Medvedev, Azerbaijan’s goalkeeper Salahat Agayev, Azerbaijan’s forward Ramil Sheidaev, Azerbaijan’s midfielder Dimitrij Nazarov, Azerbaijan’s midfielder Bahlul Mustafazade, and front row LtoR: Azerbaijan’s midfielder Gara Garayev, Azerbaijan’s midfielder Richard, Azerbaijan’s defender Anton Krivotyuk, Azerbaijan’s defender Pavlo Pashayev, Azerbaijan’s forward Mahir Emreli pose for a team photograph ahead of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – 1st round Group E football match between Wales and Azerbaijan at Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff on September 6, 2019. (Photo by GEOFF CADDICK / AFP)

Bundesliga second division footballer Dimitrij Nazarov said he ignored coronavirus health protocols to embrace his team manager, who he said “saved our lives” following a road accident en route to their game at the weekend.

The 30-year-old Azerbaijan midfielder, who plays for Erzgebirge Aue, hugged Thomas Romeyke, who also doubles as the team’s bus driver, after scoring the winner in Friday’s 1-0 victory at Nuremberg.

“I hope that the DFL (German Football League) will turn a blind eye. I know that none of this is allowed and hope that they show some humanity,” Nazarov told broadcaster MDR on Saturday.

Nazarov wanted to thank Romeyke for his quick-thinking at the wheel on the way to Nuremberg.

Romeyke kept his cool when the team bus was hit by flying vehicle parts from an accident on the motorway and managed to emergency brake safely.

“He just saved our lives. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t reacted so quickly? That’s why the goal celebrations went to him,” said Nazarov.

The Aue players were uninjured following the scare, but the driver and passenger in the other vehicle which crashed were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

The top two leagues in Germany restarted last weekend after a two-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 virus.

According to the DFL’s

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