Spain and Belgium’s men lock horns as Pro League returns for first time in 2021

Spain’s Red Sticks welcome Belgium’s Red Lions to Valencia for two matches in the Estadio Betero this weekend as the men’s FIH Pro League returns for the first time in 2021. 

It is part of the continuation of the Covid-affected 2020 season with Belgium currently sitting top of the standings with 26 points from 11 games, eight ahead of the Netherlands who have two games in hand. Spain, meanwhile, are in seventh out of nine with two wins from eight games. 

While Belgium will be hot favourites against the Spaniards, head coach Shane McLeod will certainly not be underestimating their hugely talented, unpredictable opponents.  

The team coached by former France international Fred Soyez claimed a shoot-out triumph over the Red Lions when the two teams met in Valencia during the 2019 FIH Hockey Pro League season, with Ignacio Rodriguez and Enrique Gonzalez scoring dramatic late goals to tie the match at 2-2 before snatching a crucial bonus point. 

As was the case in the FIH Hockey Pro League matches that took place in the latter part of 2020, the health and safety requirements in relation to the COVID-19 global health pandemic means that spectators will be unable to attend the upcoming clashes, which will be played behind closed doors. However, the TV cameras will be present to capture all of the action via the global broadcast. 
Due to issues directly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to the uncertainties and restrictions around European travel, both teams have agreed that the on-field umpires may come from one of the competing nations, and that there will be no video umpire in these two matches. 

The first game takes place at 11am (CET) on Friday with game two on Saturday at 1pm (CET).