Spain steps up masterplan to eclipse Premier League

Euro Zone

La Liga's attempt to go head to head with the Premier League in the Asian market by switching games to 3pm on a Saturday afternoon will happen this season, Spanish League officials have admitted.

The plan to move some La Liga games to traditional English kick-off times was confirmed by the Spanish League director, Francisco Roca, who said: "The short-term aim is to give games a time slot that allows for maximum exposure in Asia. This season we can begin to have games in Spain at 3pm local time, which will be 9pm prime time in China."

Until now live English football has dominated TV schedules in Asia and the Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno admitted that the only way for Spain to compete was to alter its fixture programme. He said: "We have to understand that there is tremendous potential to make our league universal by exporting it in this way."

The Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, gave a somewhat sarcastic response to the proposals yesterday saying: "If it suits [Real Madrid president] Florentino Perez to play games at this time then we will play them," although he also admitted: "If it benefits all clubs then it is very welcome."

Some fan organisations have complained that the change goes against tradition but Butragueno said: "In the past we have had games at 4.30 local time. I don't think there will be a problem because it is a good time for families." Roca, the league head, refused to speculate over whether the first trial mid-afternoon games would involve Real Madrid and Barcelona. He said: "First of all we need to talk to all the clubs and all the relevant televisió*companies."

Real Madrid have the most expensive team in history and Barcelona the most successful over one season, and their duel is seen as the perfect platform to launch La Liga globally but there are fears that the title race will be the most two-sided in history.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have both taken maximum points from their opening fixtures and are already 10 points ahead of two of the teams tipped to stay within touching distance in the first half of the season, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.

Players from both Real and Barça have already admitted privately that the league will be decided on 29 November in the Nou Camp and on 11 April in the Bernabeu when the two teams face each other.

Tonight the procession should continue with Real Madrid hosting Tenerife, who have never won a top-flight league game at the Bernabeu, and Barcelona travelling to Malaga.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been included in Barça's squad, although he could start from the bench after picking up a knock against Racing Santander while the defender Pepe returns for Real Madrid after serving a 10-game ban for kicking out at Getafe's Francisco Casquero.

Spotlight on... Diego Milito

One of countless Argentine players currently being ignored by the national team coach, Diego Maradona, the Internazionale's striker Diego Milito is having another superb season in Italy. Milito hit 21 goals last season for Genoa, earning him a move to Jose Mourinho's Inter, and he scored his fifth goal in as many games to help send his side top in midweek.

Milito was overlooked during the last round of World Cup qualifiers because Maradona recalled 35-year-old Martin Palermo, the Boca Juniors forward who had not represented his country for nine years. Milito has formed an eight-goal strike partnership with Samuel Eto'o and they will lead Inter's attack against Sampdoria this evening. Inter's owner, Massimo Moratti, has described them as the best strike pair in Europe.

They're all talking about... a Galacticos theme park

The Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, came clean this week over plans to turn the club's training ground into a theme park and Barcelona were involved in a spying scandal.

Perez admitted that he will look to dedicate 110 hectares of land on the Valdebebas training complex to a Disney-style tourist attraction with work starting as early as 2010 and other similar projects in Asia and the US to follow.

Meanwhile Barcelona fans had altogether more sinister things on their minds. Four of the club's vice-presidents have been spied on ahead of elections at the end of the season, though Barcelona insist the current president, Joan Laporta, was not the man who instructed private firm Metodo 3 to investigate Rafael Yuste, Jaume Ferrer, Joan Boix and Joan Franquesa.

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