Spain’s political crisis continues to form a cloud over La Liga with eyes just as much on the stands once more at Barcelona’s Camp Nou as the field for Malaga’s visit on Saturday. Elsewhere, Real Madrid will be expected to put their stuttering home form to right when struggling Basque minnows Eibar visit the Santiago Bernabeu.
Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are in need of a lift after nightmare long trips east in the Champions League in midweek, whilst La Liga’s entertainers Real Betis will look to continue their free-scoring form against Alaves.
Barca’s neutral stance of pleading for dialogue as the standoff between the Spanish and Catalan governments continues to escalate has seen the club criticised from both sides of the political extremes.
An annual general meeting of the club’s members will take place on Saturday before kick-off at the Camp Nou, providing a platform for those unhappy with president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s management of the crisis to air their grievances.
Bartomeu, though, is in a no-win situation. Barca have defended Catalonia’s right to decide its future without backing either side of the independence debate. The consequences of having such a huge fanbase ranging from Catalans to the rest of Spain and across the world means it is impossible to keep everyone happy.
On the field, Barca have made light of all manner of distractions this season to perform far better than expected. In Ernesto Valverde’s first 11 Liga and Champions League games in charge, Barca have won 10 and earned a valuable point at Atletico last weekend.
Bottom of the table Malaga should pose little threat to that unbeaten record and Barca may have the extra satisfaction of rubbing salt into a Real Madrid legend’s wounds. The last time the sides met Malaga beat Barca 2-0 in the match that ultimately cost the Catalans the title.
Malaga boss Michel rejoiced afterwards, proclaiming his delight to have helped his former club’s title charge, but should he suffer an eighth defeat in nine games to start the season, Michel is likely to be out of a job come Monday. -AFP