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Election fallout not a Clasico concern for Valverde

Omnisport
NEWS
308   //    22 Dec 2017, 21:28 IST
ErnestoValverde - cropped
Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde

Ernesto Valverde does not expect the election results in Catalonia to add any extra fuel to the Claisco fire when Real Madrid host Barcelona on Saturday.

Barca travel to the Santiago Bernabeu 11 points better off than their fierce rivals and have the opportunity to tighten their grip on the title race in LaLiga.

However, the latest installment of a fixture that has always resonated beyond events on the field for fans of both clubs comes against a backdrop of political tensions between the capital and Barca's home region, which are arguably at their highest since the era of General Franco.

Pro-independence parties claimed victory after securing an absolute majority of 70 seats in Thursday's elections. The poll was called after Catalonia's parliament was dissolved in the wake of October's disputed referendum on independence, which Spain's national government deemed to be unconstitutional.

The referendum was marred by violence, including police firing rubber bullets at protesters after some voters were forcibly removed from polling stations.

Barcelona beat Las Palmas 3-0 on the same day in an eerie atmosphere behind closed doors at Camp Nou, while the following week's 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid was played out with large numbers of the Wanda Mertropolitano crowd brandishing Spanish flags in a hostile welcome for the visitors.

The evidence points towards Barca receiving another rough ride on enemy territory this weekend but Valverde made light of political influence surrounding the Clasico and maintained the atmosphere at Atleti in October was "one of the nicest I have ever played in".

"We did not have questions on this matter in the last month and a half. I was missing it," Valverde joked when his pre-match news conference turned towards current affairs.

"Tomorrow's atmosphere will be good, no question. We were playing at the Atletico Madrid stadium, very close to October 1 [the date of the Catalan referendum] and everyone was speaking about how people would receive us.

"It was one of the nicest atmospheres I've ever played in. There was a good atmosphere on the pitch and between the fans. I hope tomorrow will be the same. 

"The fans at the Bernabeu are going to support their team but I do not expect any other factors to change anything.

"We are a football team. Players have different ideas [on politics] but we just go out to play football. It doesn't matter how anyone voted or not."

If his Barcelona players can avoid Madrid tackles with the same deftness Valverde dodged controversy on Friday, their Clasico prospects will be in a good place.

Asked about Atletico reporting his club to FIFA over an alleged approach for Antoine Griezmann, he responded: "Our club always operates within the realm of legality, so there is nothing else for me to comment on that matter."

Similarly, Valverde also saw Barcelona declining to give Real Madrid a guard of honour on account of their World Club Cup triumph last weekend as something of a non-issue.

"This is something that years ago you used to do, a symbolic way of welcoming players on to the pitch who had achieved something," he added.

"It wasn't surrounded with all this media hoo-ha like it is today. We have to respect what Real Maddrie have done this year.

"As for the guard of honour, I don't think I did that as a player and didn't expect people to do it for me either. I think that tradition has been lost a bit in Spanish football."

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