Political turmoil may have thrown next weekend’s Clasico into doubt but Barcelona and Real Madrid cannot afford to let focus waver ahead of what could prove a pivotal period in their seasons.
Ahead of their trip to Eibar in La Liga on Saturday, Barca held their press conference a day early to allow them to begin a 589-kilometre journey to Ipurua by bus on Friday and avoid the chaos at El Prat airport.But the game will go ahead, which cannot be said for sure of the Clasico against Real Madrid, scheduled to take place on October 26 at Camp Nou.
The fixture will be the club’s first at home since nine Catalan independence leaders were jailed on Monday, a decision that has sparked an array of violent protests in the city.
La Liga have proposed relocating the match to the Santiago Bernabeu or it could be postponed, with December 18 a possible date, given it falls in a week when other sides will be involved in the Copa del Rey.
Yet Barcelona and Madrid want the fixture unchanged next Saturday, at the end of a week when both clubs, as well as Atletico Madrid, are involved in the third round of the Champions League group stage.
“There would be a few away games in a row and not only for that reason but to respect the fixture list,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde on Thursday.
“We trust our people and we want to play in our stadium.”Barcelona, Madrid and Atletico are all scrapping for qualification in Europe, after Barca and Atleti took four points from their opening two games while Madrid sit bottom of Group A, desperately needing victory away at Galatasaray on Tuesday to bring them back into contention.
The international break has not been kind to coach Zinedine Zidane, who would have seen two of his key players injured if he was watching Croatia play Wales on Sunday.
Luka Modric’s thigh problem is likely to keep him out of Saturday’s visit to Mallorca and his availability either for Galatasaray or Barcelona is by no means guaranteed.
Gareth Bale’s limping was put down to cramp by Wales coach Ryan Giggs but he was yet to return to training even on Thursday.
If Madrid overcome Mallorca, who ended a seven-game winless run by beating Espanyol two weeks ago, they will stay top of the table and at least preserve their two-point lead over Barcelona ahead of the scheduled showdown next weekend.
But Barca will be chasing a fifth consecutive victory against Eibar that would push further into the distance their own stumbling start to the season.
Their upturn has coincided with Lionel Messi’s comeback, the fit-again Argentinian scoring his first of the campaign in a 4-0 win over Sevilla last time out.
Messi’s availability also increases the pressure for places up front although Antoine Griezmann’s omission against Sevilla is likely to prove a one-off for now, given Ousmane Dembele, having just returned from injury, is suspended.
Dembele is likely to come in for the visit to Slavia Prague in the Champions League on Wednesday, with Barcelona tied with Borussia Dortmund in their group.
Atletico play Bayer Leverkusen at home and while Diego Simeone’s side may not have a Clasico looming, they could also be on the move after La Liga asked the Spanish Football Federaion (RFEF) to allow their game against
Villarreal on December 6 to played in Miami. La Liga unsuccessfully attempted to stage Barcelona’s game against Girona in Miami last season. Atletico face three tough home games next, starting on Saturday against Valencia before entertaining Athletic Bilbao next weekend, with Leverkusen in between.
Granada v Osasuna (1900)
Eibar v Barcelona (1100), Atletico Madrid v Valencia (1400),
Getafe v Leganes (1630), Mallorca v Real Madrid (1900)
Alaves v Celta Vigo (1000), Real Sociedad v Real Betis (1200),
Espanyol v Villarreal (1400), Athletic Bilbao v Real Valladolid
(1630), Sevilla v Levante (1900)