The cloud of political issues may have circled next weekend’s Clasico to put the game in doubt but Barcelona and Real Madrid cannot afford to lose focus ahead of what could prove a pivotal period in their seasons.
Barca held a press conference on Friday (October 18) to allow the team to start their 589-kilometer journey to Ipurua by bus on Friday and avoid the chaos at El Prat airport, ahead of their trip to Eibar in La Liga on Saturday (October 19).
However, it cannot be said for sure that Clasico’s game against Real Madrid, scheduled to take place on October 26 at Camp Nou will go as planned.
This will be the club’s first fixture at home since nine Catalan independence leaders were jailed on Monday (October 14), 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 overcomes 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 upfront 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 plays 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 Federation (RFEF) to allow their game against Villarreal on December 6 to play in Miami.
La Liga unsuccessfully attempted to stage Barcelona’s game against Girona in Miami last season.
Atletico faces three tough home games next, starting on Saturday against Valencia before entertaining Athletic Bilbao next weekend, with Leverkusen in between.
(With inputs from agencies)