La Liga waiting on approval to introduce VAR next season

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VAR has been used in England, Germany, and Italy with mixed reviews.

La Liga began training officials in the video assistant referee (VAR) system on Friday ahead of the technology’s expected introduction next season.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has announced it is seeking approval from the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to roll out VAR in La Liga at the start of the 2018-19 campaign.

IFAB will meet in Zurich this weekend to decide whether VAR should also be used during the World Cup in Russia this summer.

“From this Friday, March 2, the La Liga First Division referees and assistant referees will begin the offline phase of their technical training,” the RFEF wrote in a statement.

“This training will not have any impact at all on the refereeing of these games.”

VAR is already active in the top divisions in both Italy and Germany, while in England it has been used on a trial basis this season in selected domestic cup games.

The system is supposed to correct only “clear and obvious” errors, regarding decisions on goals, red cards, penalties and cases of mistaken identity.

Its implementation has proven controversial, however. Players and managers have complained of referees being too eager to defer to technology, while fans in stadiums have been left in the dark as to why decisions are being made.

On 26 October, RFEF acting President Juan Luis Larrea said unofficial experiments would be carried out in about 70 matches this season.

Refereering controversies regularly arise in La Liga. Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde complained on Thursday about an “invisible penalty” awarded to Las Palmas during the match that ended 1-1.

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Real Madrid can catch Barcelona in La Liga title race, insists Zinedine Zidane

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Frustrated: Zidane on the touchline at the RCDE Stadium.

Zinedine Zidane insisted Real Madrid are fighting for the La Liga title despite a 15-point deficit to Barcelona.

Real, who are also 10 points behind city rivals Atletico, suffered another shock defeat on Tuesday against Espanyol and will look to make amends against Getafe on Saturday.

That is followed by the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Paris St Germain, but Zidane is not prioritising the trip to the French capital.

He said on realmadrid.com: “You think that the league is over for us but football is like that and every league match is important. The title will go down to the wire and we’ll fight until the end. It’s difficult but not impossible. I’m an optimist until the end.

“We’re angry about losing on Tuesday and I’m even more so after Barcelona’s draw yesterday (against Las Palmas). You have to be focused until the very last minute and we’re not giving in.”

Zidane will have defender Marcelo back from a hamstring problem but midfielders Toni Kroos and Luka Modric remain sidelined and may not even recover in time for Tuesday.

“We want to do all we can to get the win and leave everything on the field,” said Zidane of the Getafe clash. “We have to put everything into tomorrow’s game.

“We’re coming up against teams who are really motivated and fully focused. For a lot of them it’s the biggest game of the year and we must approach it the same.

“We have to play well tomorrow and then we’ll have time to turn our attention to Tuesday. We have to win games to hope we’ll win something at the end of the season. If we always go out with a winning mentality, motivated and always thinking about the next game, we can achieve something.”

Mid-table Getafe will be no pushovers. They recently held Barcelona to a goalless draw at the Nou Camp and beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 on Wednesday.

Manager Jose Bordalas is expecting a wounded Real, saying on getafecf.com: “We always think about making a good game, but we know that to get something from there you have to touch perfection.

“Real Madrid is one of the best teams in the world; we are aware of what we are and the difficulty of the match. Surely they can not afford to reap a second defeat, therefore, they will be a very dangerous team.”

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Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde furious at Las Palmas penalty award

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Unhappy: Ernesto Valverde.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said the controversial penalty which earned Las Palmas a 1-1 draw on Thursday and gave Atletico Madrid hope in La Liga‘s title race had left “a bad taste”.

Barca host Atletico on Sunday, in a clash of first against second with extra weight, now that the Catalans’ lead has been cut to just five points. Atletico thrashed Leganes 4-0 on Wednesday night.

Lionel Messi‘s brilliant free-kick looked set to restore their advantage to seven points ahead of this weekend’s showdown at the Camp Nou but two decisions from referee Antonio Mateu helped lowly Las Palmas take a share of the spoils.

First, Mateu overlooked a handball from goalkeeper Leandro Chichizola outside the box, which could have drawn a red card, and then he awarded a penalty when the ball struck Lucas Digne on the arm. Former West Ham striker Jonathan Calleri made no mistake.

Barcelona will feel hard done by given Digne’s handball looked entirely accidental, with Gerard Pique on the pitch after the final whistle venting his anger at the officials.

“We do not know what happened in this play,” Valverde said afterwards. “From the field I found it unspeakable, but these are things that happen.”

Even after Calleri’s equaliser, however, the visitors had 42 minutes to find a winner and, in truth, they created little.

The question now is whether three days is enough for Barcelona to recover, physically and mentally, before facing an Atletico team hunting their ninth win on the bounce.

“The match comes fast,” Valverde said. “But that’s how it is. There remains a bad taste, after not winning here when we thought we could have done.”

Valverde had already lamented the scheduling this week but Luis Suarez started, despite sitting one yellow card away from a suspension, which he successfully avoided.

It is hard to think of two better players than Messi and Suarez in a two against one but the former’s final pass to the latter was underhit and the first big chance of the game was lost.

Messi seemed determined to atone for his error and in the 21st minute he won a free-kick after another irrepressible run to the edge of the box. The Argentinian planted the ball left-footed into the top right-hand corner.

The first controversy came on the stroke of half-time as Chichizola came rushing out of his area but, after skewing his clearance, the keeper quickly stopped the ball with his hand. Mateu blew only for the interval.

Any sense of injustice was then doubled three minutes after the break, when Mateu awarded Las Palmas their penalty.

Barca failed to clear a cross into their box and as the ball cannoned off the back post, it struck the oblivious Digne on the arm. Calleri coolly dispatched the spot-kick.

On came the extra firepower, as Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele replaced Aleix Vidal and Andres Iniesta but Barca rarely troubled Las Palmas in the latter stages. They must improve on Sunday.

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