Coronavirus hits Spanish clubs after Liga finish

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — It looks like Spain’s soccer league finished just in time.

The league ended three weeks ago with Real Madrid winning the title and club directors breathing a sigh of relief that the decision to resume the competition after a four-month stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic was the right one.

The second division was not so lucky. A major outbreak on one club on the final day of the season threw the competition into chaos that was resolved only weeks later.

But after a short summer holiday, the first-division clubs are detecting a smattering of infections after their players returned to action for the preseason.

The latest club to be stricken was Real Valladolid, which announced on Thursday that a member of its team or staff had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

That came a day after Athletic Bilbao said six players had also been infected. They identified themselves on social media.

The group included Bilbao striker Iñaki Williams, who said he was without symptoms and “staying at home until I get over the virus” and can rejoin the team.

Real Betis forward Loren Morón has announced he, too, tested positive, and Osasuna said coach Jagoba Arrasate was also infected.

The most recent cases are coming out as clubs screen their teams and staff on return to practice before starting the preseason.

But cases have also cropped up in teams still in competition for important titles.

Atlético Madrid had a huge scare when Ángel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko tested positive as the team was set to travel to Portugal for the Champions League final eight. The rest of their teammates tested negative and were able to travel. The club does not rule out that the forward and defender could join the team later if they recover quickly.

Barcelona, for its part, had already said one player not with the team set to play in the Champions League had tested positive.

Sevilla also had a player test positive before it headed to Germany to dispute the Europa League.

Real Madrid forward Mariano tested positive just before it visited Manchester City in the Champions League round-of-16, which it lost.

Strict hygiene, limits on player socialization, and testing allowed the league to finish the last 11 rounds of the competition in June and July.

The uptick in cases came amid a second surge in the virus that causes COVID-19 in Spain, making it the most worrying hot spot in Europe.

The new Spanish league is supposed to start in September, but a calendar has not been announced yet.

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