The sporting world will be focusing on Germany this weekend when Bundesliga becomes the first major league to restart after shutdown caused by coronavirus.
All 18 clubs will be heading back into action in what could act as a catalyst for other leagues to follow suit.
Strict health and safety protocols will be in place and stadiums will be empty for the so-called ghost games.
To top it up, a fixture that would normally be played out in front of 80 000 fans, between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04. This time there will be eerie silence only around 200 people pitchside and in the stands, including medics, security, hygiene staff, and certain media personnel.
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Everyone else must wear masks except players.
“It will most certainly be the most unusual derby in history,” Dortmund’s head of pro players Sebastian Kehl said this week.
“This game lives off fans, their emotions, the intensity of the stadium. We will not experience any of that.”
A heavy police presence is expected outside the Westfalenstadion to make sure fans desperate to get closer to the action, or anti-lockdown protestors, do not gather – a situation that could throw the restart into doubt.
“We will not allow the derby to be used for any political stirring whatsoever,” Dortmund mayor Ullrich Sierau told a news conference on Friday.
“If it means a person doesn’t die because of the virus, then we’ll gladly do without the next match.”
While opinion still divided the rights and wrongs of the top-tier soccer return while no vaccine is yet available for the killer virus, from a sporting perspective the Bundesliga title race could still turn into a classic.
Dortmund are in second place with nine games remaining, four points behind leaders Bayern Munich who are seeking an eighth successive crown.
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Bayern travel to Union Berlin on Sunday with the host s likely to be without coach Urs Fischer, who on Wednesday left the team’s mandatory seven-day isolation camp ahead of the season restart. Leipzig host Freiburg which Borussia Moenchengladbach, still in the hunt a further point behind fourth-place travel to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Clubs will be allowed to make five substitutes – a moved designed to help clubs cope with what could be a piled-up of fixtures.
After a two-month suspension and no other live action this weekend, a TV audience of one billion is expected to tune in for the weekend’s Bundesliga fixtures, according to Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.