After a brief yet turbulent close-season marked by the attempted departure of Lionel Messi, little transfer activity and the renewed threat of the coronavirus in Spain, LaLiga returns this afternoon with a decidedly gloomy outlook.
Fans are not expected to return to Spanish stadiums until 2021 at the earliest as infection rates continue to rise across the country, depriving the game of the noise and colour for which it is renowned.
There is also a subdued feeling as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are among six teams missing the opening weekend due to finishing last season late, with the latter three sides also missing the second weekend.
Old tensions have resurfaced at institutional level, meanwhile, creating yet more uncertainty.
The federation delayed the release of fixtures and this week threatened to block the first match of the season between Granada and Athletic Bilbao due to a ban on Friday matches, although LaLiga are certain the game will go ahead.
The financial impact of the pandemic, meanwhile, is being keenly felt across the league, even afflicting the wealthiest clubs.
Champions Real Madrid, who usually spend their summers parading big money signings at glitzy presentation ceremonies, are not expected to bring in anyone new. Instead they are focusing on recalling loanees such as Martin Odegaard while clearing out unwanted players.
Still, Zinedine Zidane’s side are the favourites to lift the title after last season’s relentless run of 10 straight victories and given the turmoil at Barcelona.
Barca may have clung on to Messi after a two-week saga but are still in deep trouble on a sporting, institutional and financial level.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu is threatened by a potential vote of no-confidence, while the club are trying to ease a colossal wage bill, shown by their willingness to part with Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal for cut-price deals.