Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said he is preparing for Sunday's "must-win" Clasico against Real Madrid with or without Neymar as Spain's Court for Sport (TAD) warned the Catalan club there could be consequences if they field the suspended Brazilian.
Neymar was sent off for two yellow cards against Malaga earlier this month, earning an automatic one-match ban. His punishment was increased by two matches because he sarcastically applauded the fourth official as he walked down the tunnel.
The three-match suspension ruled him out of the game against Real Sociedad on April 15 as well as Sunday's Clasico and Barcelona's home game against Osasuna on April 26.
The Spanish football federation (RFEF) rejected Barca’s appeal against the extra two-match suspension on Thursday, but the club took their case to TAD on Friday.
Luis Enrique, Coach - BarcelonaThe club have done things well, defending the interests of the player. I think it’s logical. I’m preparing for the game with and without Neymar -- the club are right to do what they’re doing with the appeal. It’s something they are working on as much as possible.
There was widespread confusion about Neymar's potential availability after TAD's president, Enrique Arnaldo, said on Friday that the court had received no communication from the club.
On Saturday, however, TAD released a statement saying Barcelona had contacted them later on Friday to ask that Neymar be declared available against Madrid, which the court said it could not do.
TAD said it called an emergency meeting on Saturday but this could not take place due to all court members not being present.
In the absence of a judgment, however, the club were warned by TAD of the risks in allowing Neymar to play.
All participants in sport are free to interpret the rules as they see pertinent in relation to their rights and interests, without prejudice to the fact that competent bodies may subsequently determine the correctness or incorrectness of their interpretation.
Following their Champions League elimination on Wednesday, the Clasico has taken on extra significance for Barcelona’s season.
Barca are three points behind La Liga leaders Real, having played a game more and know a loss would leave them with a mountain to climb to prevent Real securing a first title in five years.
“It’s a special game because of the moment we are in the season; the game against our great rival, who are top of the table. We need to nullify their qualities, any result but a win would do us no good whatsoever,” Luis Enrique said.