A decision on whether next week's Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid can go ahead at Camp Nou is set to be made on Thursday, Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales said.

Violent scenes broke out in Barcelona at the start of the week after nine Catalan political leaders received long prison sentences for their roles in the region's 2017 referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.

A rally in the city has been called by pro-independence politicians for October 26, the day Barca are due to host bitter rivals Madrid.

Barcelona's main airport was briefly closed on Tuesday due to the tension, with Spanish league officials raising concern the Clasico could be affected by protests.

One option would be to move the game to Madrid and for Barca to host the second Clasico of the season, but that was opposed by Blaugrana head coach Ernesto Valverde on Thursday.

There have also been suggestions the match should be postponed and an alternative date in the calendar found. Valverde thinks the game should go ahead as planned.

Rubiales said Barca and Madrid swiftly submitted their observations on the matter and the RFEF would be seeking to make an early decision.

"I can assure that we will work to try to have a resolution this evening, because there are people involved, supporters with booked trips, tickets, media, and that is what we have done," Rubiales said.

"Regarding the government, what I can say is that this is a matter of football, and it is the competition committee which has to decide. So the government hasn't contacted us or asked for one or another thing."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde issued an appeal for calm as his team made an early dash to Eibar to avoid more possible protests in their home city.

Violent scenes broke out in Barcelona at the start of the week after nine Catalan political leaders were dealt long prison sentences for their roles in the region's 2017 referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.

Barcelona's main airport was briefly closed on Tuesday due to the tension, with Spanish league officials later suggesting the Clasico with Real Madrid next week could be moved from Camp Nou to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Talk around that match dominated Valverde's media conference on Thursday, which had been designated to preview this Saturday's game against Eibar.

It emerged that Barca would be leaving on Thursday to make the trip to the Basque Country, rather than departing on Friday as would normally be the case.

"Tomorrow there could be things going on, protests in Barcelona," Valverde said. "There could be travel issues and we have to be there for the game. It's Saturday at 1pm and we thought this was the best option."

Valverde grew up in the Basque region and played for Athletic Bilbao for six years.

He is no stranger to tense political climates surrounding autonomy given that background, but regarding events in Catalonia he said: "I don't want to get too far into the things that are going on. They are issues that have been going on for years.

"What's happened recently is not habitual. We want people to be able to express themselves with the maximum level of freedom.

"Everyone has to respect each other and maybe that hasn’t been there the last few days."

He added: "At this time I think things need to be done in the political world so that there’s understanding. Obviously there are things you don't like to see and we hope that's a one-time thing, and that's it."

Valverde should be more comfortable once Barcelona are out of the city and he can focus on the Eibar game, an important fixture for the club given their mixed start to the campaign.

They sit second in LaLiga, two points behind Real Madrid, and have struggled at times over their opening eight games, in which they have suffered two losses.

Looking ahead to the Eibar trip, Valverde said: "These games are important because we're not at top of the table and we need three points.

"We did have a bit of a tough stretch and we reacted well to it. Sometimes you don't play well but you win anyway and you expect the team to react and that's what we've done in recent years.

"We would like to be in first place but we're not because we tripped up in a few games."

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde says the first Clasico of the season against Real Madrid should go ahead as planned at Camp Nou on October 26.

LaLiga has proposed moving the match to the Santiago Bernabeu amid the political unrest in Catalonia, and a reported alternative would be to set the fixture back to December.

Nine Catalan political leaders were given prison sentences ranging from nine to 13 years on Monday for their roles in the region's 2017 referendum and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence.

The ruling sparked a huge backlash and clashes between police and protestors, with Barcelona's main airport briefly closed the following day due to the tension.

A city rally has been called by pro-independence politicians for October 26, the day Barca are due to host their bitter rivals at Camp Nou.

There are concerns the match could be hijacked by protesters for political purposes, but Valverde was adamant Barca want it to be played on its intended date, at their home stadium.

He said in a news conference on Thursday: "There has been a lot of chatter about that game. There was the possibility of changing the order of matches and playing the game at Madrid first, but we don't see that.

"We have an away game this weekend, then [we would have another] next weekend, and then we have to go travel again. And not just because of that, but it's about respecting the calendar and the fans, and the normal thing is to play at our pitch, but we'll see what happens.

"People are getting a bit ahead of themselves with regard to this game. This has been a strange week in Barcelona, everyone knows that, but there's time still and we trust the game will be played in our stadium, which is what we want.

"There are nine days left before we play. We also played at the Wanda Metropolitano against Atletico Madrid [in 2017, after the Catalan independence referendum] and everyone said there would be drama and there was our fans, their fans – everyone has a right to express an opinion in the ground and we think the same thing will happen here.

"Everybody's thinking about whether the game's going to be moved, and it's an opportunity to show there is respect for your opponents that it can be played, and it's an important match for people to see.

"It should be played under normal circumstances. People can express their opinions in the stadium in a natural way."

Amid a suggestion a decision on the fixture could be taken as early as this Thursday by league officials, Valverde was asked whether a postponement might most help Barca or Madrid.

"I don't know, we're going to wait and see," he said. "We'd be coming off a Wednesday [game] and they off a Tuesday [game]. It could seem we benefit more by not having to play, but those things are not very important.

"These games are so highly anticipated that I think the players are ready to play them whenever they are played."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde was left pondering Ousmane Dembele's red card at the end of his side's rout of Sevilla, claiming the Frenchman's grasp of Spanish would have restricted the words that led to his dismissal.

Dembele was sent off two minutes from time for protesting the red card shown to Barcelona debutant Ronald Araujo in Sunday's 4-0 LaLiga victory, and Valverde said the late disciplinary flurry did not reflect the manner of the game.

Barca cruised to their fourth consecutive win in all competitions, scoring three goals in eight first-half minutes before captain Lionel Messi added a fourth with a second-half free-kick.

Valverde praised his side's incisive forward play after the champions moved within two points of top spot thanks to goals from Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, Dembele and Messi.

"We have had more punch than them, there is the key," Valverde told reporters afterwards.

"The result is substantial, but we don't have to be forgiving to our rivals.

"The red cards? It's the referee's decision. Everyone has their opinion. I've seen a pretty clean game.

"It didn't seem like Araujo's fault, but I always see everything in favour of my team.

"I don't know what Dembele may have said to the referee but I don't think it's a long sentence because it's hard to hear him speak Spanish."

Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui hailed his side's bright start, in which Luuk de Jong squandered three good opportunities to put the visitors ahead.

But Barcelona's dominance thereafter leaves Sevilla with three defeats from their last four LaLiga matches and Lopetegui felt the result at Camp Nou was harsh on his players.

"The first 30 to 35 minutes were ours," said Lopetegui. "We had very clear chances and we didn't score. And in such a scenario when you don't take advantage, the laws of football take effect."

Ansu Fati is back in the Barcelona squad for Sunday's visit of Sevilla, while Jordi Alba also returns after almost three weeks out.

Fati, 16, missed Barca's wins over Getafe and Inter in the past week with a knee injury, having made a fine impact at the start of the campaign despite his tender age.

However, he has been given the all-clear to return to action and is named in the squad to face Sevilla – whose academy he represented as a child – at Camp Nou this weekend.

Left-back Alba is back in contention as well having been out since mid-September, when he suffered a hamstring strain against Borussia Dortmund.

Barca are almost at full strength, with only injured duo Samuel Umtiti and Junior Firpo and the suspended Clement Lenglet unable to feature.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are fit for Barcelona but Ernesto Valverde's focus is on getting his star forwards fully up to speed. 

Suarez scored both Barca goals in a comeback victory at home to Inter in the Champions League in midweek with Messi, whose season has been plagued by injury, setting up the second at the end of an excellent run. 

Barca's indifferent start to their LaLiga title defence has not been helped by injuries to both forwards, with Valverde's side five points behind leaders Real Madrid heading into their encounter with Sevilla. 

Neither Messi or Suarez will play for Argentina or Uruguay for the upcoming internationals, with Valverde acknowledging it presents him with an opportunity to get the duo back up to their full capacity. 

"Of course they are fit again, they showed that [against Inter]," Valverde told a news conference ahead of a meeting with Sevilla at Camp Nou. 

"I will decide on Sunday whether I start one or the other or bring them on later. They are two players who have struggled with injuries this season but the more they play the more form they will get.  

"We like the players to be picked for international duty because it means they're not injured, because it means they're playing at their top level. 

"There are not many players for us going this international break - that's not necessarily a bad thing. 

"It means we will have a more complete squad for training and can work on certain things. But after that fortnight we've got important matches in LaLiga and the Champions League and we need to be ready for those. 

"We're doing well. We've hit on a good run, now we're playing a very strong team, the aim is to keep moving forward." 

Barca have been without Jordi Alba since the left-back sustained a hamstring injury in the Champions League draw with Borussia Dortmund on September 17, but Valverde confirmed the Spain international is back in contention. 

"Not having a specific left-footed full-back is unnatural," said Valverde, who has also been shorn of Junior Firpo due to a hamstring problem. 

"The players who have had to play there have done well, the players are used to this kind of thing but we'll see if Jordi can recover. 

"We'll wait but it's certainly a possibility. He's not been declared fully fit yet, he did part of training the other day. He certainly felt fine but we'll wait to see how things go." 

Alba was later included in a 19-man squad by Valverde, with Ansu Fati also returning from injury.

Neymar may not have secured his return to Barcelona, but the Paris Saint-Germain star's future continues to make headlines.

The Brazil forward was keen on making a Barca comeback, two years after his world-record transfer to the French capital.

But as Antoine Griezmann struggles to settle in at Camp Nou, the Frenchman could see himself shipped out to make way for Neymar.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR & GRIEZMANN IN SWAP DEAL

Barcelona are considering the possibility of sending Griezmann to Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar, claims Le10Sport.

Neymar was unable to secure a return to Barca during the transfer window following his €222million exit in 2017.

But as Griezmann – who only arrived from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid in the off-season – finds it difficult to settle and develop a relationship with Lionel Messi, the Barca recruit is being talked about as a possible makeweight.

 

ROUND-UP

- Leicester City star James Maddison is Tottenham's number one target to replace soon-to-be free agent Christian Eriksen, according to the Daily Star. Maddison has also been linked to Premier League rivals Manchester United.

Real Madrid could trigger Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak's €120m release clause as Thibaut Courtois struggles at the Santiago Bernabeu, according to ElDesmarque.

- The front page of Corriere dello Sport says Lazio have signed star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to a new contract until 2024. The deal, worked out in secret for another season, appears to end speculation of a move to the likes of InterUnited, Real Madrid, Juventus or Paris Saint-Germain.

Gennaro Gattuso could make a sensational return to AC Milan, but only in an unlikely scenario. Amid mounting pressure on coach Marco Giampaolo, El Corriere claims Gattuso – who stepped down at the end of 2018-19 – would make his way back to San Siro if directors Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban quit.

- The Express says Chelsea will offer Willian a new contract amid links to LaLiga champions Barcelona. It comes as the Evening Standard reports the Blues will reward Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori with fresh deals.

- Could Carlo Ancelotti leave Napoli at the end of the season? Corriere dello Sport suggests the Italian head coach could depart if results do not improve. Napoli are already six points adrift of Serie A leaders Inter.

- Marca says Manchester United are keeping an eye on Mexico international Jose Juan Macias. The 20-year-old Leon forward scored his first international goal on debut for El Tri on Wednesday.

- Ernesto Valverde's future as Barcelona boss is far from certain and with that in mind, TNT Sport reports that River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo is the club's first choice.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas believes an early kick-off time for the Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid allows more people around the world to tune in.

The October 26 clash between the LaLiga rivals will take place at Camp Nou with a kick-off time of 13:00 CET (12:00 BST).

With both sides in Champions League action during the preceding week, Barca will have a day less recovery time than Madrid after returning from Slavia Prague.

Tebas indicated the decision to hold the Clasico early in the day was made with Asian television markets in mind.

"Now you put a Clasico at one o'clock and you can see it in more places across the world," he said on Friday.

"Our international work consists of that. If we don't put it at that time, in Asia they won't be able to watch it.

"It's Spanish football but it's no longer only for Spanish people. There are fans all over the world.

"In El Salvador they tell us that they will be sleeping on Saturday at one o'clock. We can't please everyone."

Tebas also responded to claims from the Spanish Football Federation that TV producers manipulated VAR images after Denis Cheryshev's goal was allowed to stand in Valencia's 1-0 win against Athletic Bilbao.

"I found it outrageous. No one doubts the system or the arbitrators," he said.

"The assessment will be made at the end of the season. It has been seven days. We have to wait.

"It would be bold to say that the system worked better or worse than last season. It was exaggerated."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde praised the impact of Lionel Messi in the club's come-from-behind Champions League win over Inter.

Messi returned from injury to help LaLiga champions Barca to a 2-1 victory against Inter at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

The Barca captain made just his second start of the season, having missed the Getafe trip due to a thigh injury sustained against Villarreal, and he set up Luis Suarez for the 84th-minute winner.

Discussing Messi's performance post-match, Valverde told reporters: "It is the first game that he played in full, also a game with a significant physical burden on the opponent and the competition.

"In any play he can help you even when he is tired. Messi has not done a pre-season like the others, so he has to catch up."

Messi was at the centre of Barca's match-winner, with the five-time Ballon d'Or champion finding Suarez on the edge of the box as his Uruguayan team-mate slotted home six minutes from the end.

Valverde added: "In the end he made a fantastic play, but he was more tired than at the beginning."

Suarez silenced his critics with a brace – making it three goals in two games – as Barca rallied past Antonio Conte's Inter on home soil.

Lautaro Martinez had silenced the crowd with his second-minute opener, but Suarez restored parity approaching the hour mark before getting Barca's Group F campaign up and running following their goalless draw at Borussia Dortmund.

"Strikers live in the danger zone," Valverde said. "They play in the most difficult area as they are always surrounded by defenders and need to solve the situations against the defenders they have onto them, so that is hard.

"Sometimes you cannot succeed, like one week ago, but then he scored once for La Liga and twice for Champions League. Luis has probed for long time already what he is capable of, so he keeps doing so."

Barca have struggled to convince this season amid growing pressure on Valverde and the Spanish boss added: "Of course this is an important win as it was a very important game, given how tight the group table was after the first match-day and also for the upcoming games.

"From the very first minute you all saw how important this game was for both teams given the intensity we both showed. For us, after drawing our first match playing a not-good game, I hope this comeback will help us for the upcoming fixtures."

Luis Suarez believes every aspect of Barcelona's play is "viewed with a magnifying glass" and opponents will up their game against them because they are the best team in the world.

Barca claimed a slender 2-1 win over Inter in the Champions League on Wednesday, coming from behind thanks to Suarez's stunning brace.

The Uruguayan striker netted twice in the second half, including an 84th-minute winner, after Lautaro Martinez had put Inter ahead early on at Camp Nou.

Inter had looked significantly more threatening than the hosts in the first half, but Suarez, who highlighted Ernesto Valverde's impact in altering his tactics, suggested any Barca errors are always magnified because of who they are.

"He [Valverde] told us that we had to be more orderly when it came to pressing. That's why we have the coach, to correct those mistakes and we [were] aware of how we were to do it," Suarez said.

"It is also a virtue of the rival because they have very fast players and have taken advantage of our spaces.

"We are in the best team in the world and everything is viewed with a magnifying glass.

"Being strong and focused, being aware that we are the team to beat – that's the mentality we should have in this Champions League."

Valverde accepted Inter made Barca work extremely hard for their victory, the coach believing the result simply came down to the Catalans being that bit better in the second half.

"We needed to revolutionise the game going forward," Valverde said. "With [Sergio] Busquets [who was replaced by Arturo Vidal early in the second half], Arthur and [Frenkie] De Jong, we controlled the game, but we needed to play into space.

"We needed to enter the area more and be more decisive in the final third. They were staying away from our goal and we were able to come back.

"We had a powerful team against us. They are top in Serie A after winning all their matches. They made life difficult for us, but in the second half we were better."

Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele have been passed fit to be included in the Barcelona squad to face Inter in the Champions League.

Club captain Messi has only started one game this season in all competitions due to calf and thigh injuries respectively.

Dembele has also been included in a 20-man squad named by coach Ernesto Valverde, after a minor knock, but teenage prodigy Ansu Fati remains out with a knee problem.

Defenders Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba are still sidelined and will miss Wednesday's Group F game at Camp Nou.

Inter have been dealt a blow with head coach Antonio Conte confirming in a news conference that striker Romelu Lukaku has been ruled out.

Lukaku's absence could open the door for former Barca forward Alexis Sanchez to start for the Nerazzurri, who drew their opener at Slavia Prague.

Lionel Messi could yet feature in Barcelona's Champions League clash with Inter on Wednesday, with Ernesto Valverde refusing to rule him out of the contest.

Messi has endured a difficult start to the season due to injury problems, suffering a calf strain in August that kept him out for a month, before a hamstring issue struck against Villarreal in September.

Early indications seemed to suggest Messi was going to be missing for up to three weeks, but he was back in training on Monday.

Although Valverde is yet to decide whether Messi is ready, he did warn expecting fans that he shall not needlessly risk their talisman, while there also remains a little uncertainty around Ousmane Dembele after hurting his hamstring.

"We will see if he [Messi] receives it [the all-clear to play]," Valverde told reporters on Tuesday. "First we have training. What I reiterate is that we will not run any risk and we have to wait for training. 

"On Monday Dembele did the first part of the training, so now we see if he can do more on Tuesday.

"Leo did half the training on Monday, we'll see if he can finish [Tuesday's session]. I don't know if we can count on them in the end."

Barca began their Champions league campaign with a 0-0 draw at Borussia Dortmund, meaning they are under a little more pressure to get a home win against Inter.

Antonio Conte's side have enjoyed a stunning upturn in form since the former Chelsea coach took over, winning six and losing none of their seven matches across all competitions this season.

In last season's Champions League, Barca beat Inter 2-0 in Camp Nou and drew 1-1 in Milan, though Valverde expects an entirely different challenge this time around.

"It is a team that has changed many things; players, the coach, they're playing with a different system, even if there are similar things, such as their intention to push up," Valverde said.

"They have had a spectacular start, they are winning all their matches and we are waiting for a complicated game.

"This is another Inter to last year, impacted by the coach, something similar to what we met with Chelsea two seasons ago. It's a solid team, hard to score against."

Ernesto Valverde hailed the perseverance of Luis Suarez, who silenced his critics with a goal in Barcelona's 2-0 LaLiga victory at Getafe.

Suarez was on target in the opening half as 10-man Barca recorded their first away victory of the league season on Saturday.

Whistled during Barca's win at home to Villarreal midweek, Suarez responded by scoring his third LaLiga goal of the campaign – a lobbed effort in the 41st minute.

Barca head coach Valverde lauded 32-year-old forward Suarez, who has come in for criticism due to his form.

"Goalscorers sometimes score and sometimes they don't, but Luis always perseveres," Valverde said. "He fought for a long ball and was rewarded."

Barca had lost two and drawn one of their opening three away fixtures in LaLiga prior to Saturday's triumph against Getafe.

The result left Barca fourth in the standings, two points adrift of leaders and bitter rivals Real Madrid.

"It was important not to make mistakes early on like we have done in other games," Valverde said. "That was fundamental. The goal calmed us down and, from there, we imposed ourselves well. We didn't give much away and had chances to score more.

"If you want to win LaLiga you have to win a lot of games away from home, not just your home games. Getafe were a tough rival, it's a hard place to come and we've played well. Now we have three days to prepare for Inter."  

Barca were without Ousmane Dembele for the Getafe trip due to a thigh injury and it remains to be seen whether the France international will be fit for Wednesday's Champions League showdown against Inter.

"It's true that I left him out of the [matchday] squad," Valverde added. "It was more as a precaution. He's told me that he is calm. We think it's a little nuisance, but it's nothing serious."

When asked if Dembele would feature against Inter, Valverde replied: "I don't know. I wish that wasn't the case, but I can't say for sure."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen admitted everything was perfectly aligned to allow him to become the first Barcelona goalkeeper to claim an assist in LaLiga this century.

The club's tiki-taka playing style, established in Johan Cruyff's time as manager, has meant goalkeepers have not been typically encouraged to kick the ball long to the strikers.

Instead, the policy has been to play out from the back, and Barcelona have built great success by doing just that.

However, German shot-stopper Ter Stegen was in a hurry to clear as he raced off his line and outside the penalty area to intercept the ball against Getafe on Saturday, with the game goalless.

He looked up, noticed Luis Suarez was beginning a sprint into the Getafe half, and launched the ball long. Suarez did the rest, shaking off the attentions of a defender before lobbing David Soria, grabbing the first goal in a 2-0 victory.

"It was a bit strange because it doesn't happen to you much in your career," Ter Stegen said.

"And it's something I hadn't done, but I'm happy. It was a perfect moment, for Luis to take off and then the pass... and the pass was good. I saw him there but the pass had to be perfect. Luis was perfectly positioned and we took advantage of it."

Barcelona were able to celebrate a first away win in the league this season, even if not all aspects of the performance were encouraging. Getafe were well in the game and would have been encouraged by some haphazard Barcelona defending before Suarez's goal changed the contest.

In quotes published on Barcelona's website, Ter Stegen added: "I think it was a step we needed this season. To win games away from home is tricky, so it was a good day for us and for the fans, I think. To keep a clean sheet is always important so I'm happy with that."

Head coach Ernesto Valverde offered his approval, saying of his goalkeeper: "Obviously we want him to be very aware of long passes because the goalkeeper can do that with defences which are pushed up, and [it was] a great assist."

Valverde, whose position will be under less scrutiny than it has following the three points, said the decision to leave Ousmane Dembele out of his team was "mainly a precaution" because of a minor thigh problem. Barcelona play Inter in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"Tomorrow we'll do more tests," Valverde said in quotes published by Marca.

The head coach was pleased to see Barcelona show some form away from Camp Nou, saying: "After the recent results away from home we needed to win and it was a good away trip because Getafe asked a lot of questions of us."

Barcelona are without Ansu Fati and Lionel Messi for their LaLiga trip to Getafe.

Messi was already expected to miss out after sustaining a thigh injury against Villarreal in midweek, when he made his first start of the season.

Teenager Fati will be joining the club captain in the treatment room after Barca confirmed he sits out the trip due to a right knee injury.

Messi and Fati being absent means there is a place in Ernesto Valverde's 19-man squad for Carles Perez, who signed a new three-year deal on Friday.

Barcelona have only won six of their last 14 LaLiga away games without Messi, losing six times and drawing twice.

However, their 10 LaLiga wins at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez is more than any other side.

 

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