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Spain's La Liga suspended, Real Madrid quarantined amid coronavirus spread

The La Liga title race between Real Madrid and Barcelona will be put on hold as the coronavirus spreads. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

La Liga, the top soccer division in Spain, has suspended its season for at least two weeks, the latest in a growing line of worldwide precautions to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The league announced the decision Thursday, around 32 hours before Real Madrid was set to take on Eibar Friday evening.

Real Madrid players, meanwhile, have been quarantined after a member of the club’s basketball team tested positive for COVID-19. The soccer and basketball teams train at the same complex, and share some of the same facilities. The entire complex has been temporarily shut down after the positive test.

“La Liga has decided given the circumstances that have come to light this morning, such as the quarantine put in place at Real Madrid and possible positive cases at other clubs, to continue with the next phase of the protocol of action against COVID-19,” the league said in a statement. “In accordance with measures established in [a Royal Decree], it has been agreed that the competition will be suspended for the next two Matchdays.

“Said decision will be reevaluated after the completion of the quarantines undertaken in the affected clubs and in other possible situations that may arise.”

The league had already moved all matches behind closed doors. With the country’s case count climbing above 2,000 on Wednesday, postponement was the next logical step.

Other top European soccer competitions, most notably Italy’s Serie A, have been suspended for significant amounts of time. Champions League games have been played without fans in attendance, but have not yet been called off. La Liga-leading Barcelona is scheduled to host Italian side Napoli next Wednesday in a decisive knockout round match. Whether that game goes ahead, presumably, is very much up in the air.

In La Liga, Barcelona and Real Madrid are embroiled in a tight title race. With 11 games to play, Barca holds a two-point lead over its arch-rival. But the stretch run will have to wait.

The English Premier League, meanwhile, postponed an Arsenal-Manchester City match on Wednesday, but has not yet announced any further postponements.

On Wednesday night, the NBA became the first major American sports league to suspend play. More suspensions and precautionary measures across the sports world are expected Thursday.

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