Barcelona hit back at Spain’s Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAD) on Saturday as they continue to press for Neymar to be allowed to play in this weekend’s Clasico against Real Madrid.
The Catalan club lodged an appeal against Neymar’s three-game ban — he’s already served one game — with TAD on Friday and their understanding is that until a resolution has been reached, the suspension is on hold.
TAD had planned to hold an extraordinary meeting to deal with the case at midday on Saturday, but in the end were unable to do so and maintain that Neymar cannot play in the pivotal La Liga match on Sunday.
Instead, TAD released a statement criticising Barca for lodging the appeal once it was common knowledge that their weekly meeting had ended, said Neymar’s punishment is still “immediately enforceable” and suggested Barca run the risk of being sanctioned if they field him at the Santiago Bernabeu.
However, Barca have since replied to TAD, releasing their own statement in which they say the one from TAD merely represents the opinion of president, Enrique Arnaldo.
Barca say they are still waiting for the issue to be resolved and add that it is now a given that Arnaldo should not be involved in the deliberation process so that his own opinions do not influence the outcome.
Speaking in a news conference on Saturday, Luis Enrique said he was prepared for the game “with or without Neymar” and backed the club’s approach to the situation, although he wouldn’t say if he was optimistic or not.
If things do not progress and there’s no definitive ruling, Barca’s resolve may be tested when it comes to deciding whether or not to play Neymar against league leaders Madrid.
The club feel that as things stand they are entitled to play him while the issue remains unresolved, although Arnaldo made it quite clear that he feels otherwise.
Neymar was sent off as Barca were beaten at Malaga on April 8 after picking up two yellow cards, earning himself a one-match ban. His first booking was for obstructing the taking of a free kick by tying his laces, and the second was for a late challenge on Roberto Rosales.
He was later given an additional two-game suspension after referee Jesus Gil Manzano included in his postmatch report that the Brazilian had “sarcastically applauded” the fourth official as he left the pitch.
Barca travel to the Spanish capital three points behind Madrid but could go to the top with a win. However, a defeat to Zinedine Zidane’s side would leave them six points off the pace, having played one game more and with just five matches left to play.