Luis Suarez ban: New Barcelona striker could return for El Clasico, but the dream script may never make it to the production stages
Barcelona can't afford to carry any passengers against Real Madrid, especially those that won't have trained with their team-mates for four months
Friday 25 July 2014
As far as scripts go, it could be up there with the best. The fixtures for the forthcoming La Liga season were announced on Thursday afternoon and pitted Real Madrid against Barcelona on the same weekend that Luis Suarez is eligible to return from his four-month football ban and make his debut for the Catalan club.
On paper, it looks enthralling. El Clásico is not a contest that requires a shot in the arm but the possible return of the Uruguayan, who is currently serving a ban from "any football-related activities" after biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup, only fans the flames of a duel regarded by many as the biggest in world football.
On paper, that is. While pulses were set racing with the knowledge that Barca's trip to the Santiago Bernabeu on the weekend of October 25-26 fell on the same weekend Suarez finishes his suspension, it would take a big and brave call from manager Luis Enrique to include the former Liverpool man in his squad. The script looks good, but it may not enter the production stages.
The terms of Suarez's ban, handed out by FIFA after being found guilty of biting Chielini in Uruguay's final match of the group stages in Brazil, prevent the forward not only from playing but also from training with his teammates and entering any stadium. Barca's latest star recruit will not only be lacking match fitness and sharpness but will be completely out of sync with his teammates.
Against lesser La Liga clubs his debut that weekend may have been considered, at least as a substitute. El Clásico is no ordinary contest, however. Not only is it a huge match in its own right in Spain and around the world but it is a match that could well decide where La Liga's crown is heading next season such is the strength of both squads. Neither club will want to carry passengers.
Suarez will continue to train separately from his teammates and will likely put his hand up to be included in the Spanish capital such is his desire to pull on the Barcelona shirt and play on the biggest of stages. The watching world will be eager to see one of the world's best players play in one of the world's biggest games, too, but they may have to wait a little longer. The return match takes place at the Camp Nou on the weekend of March 21-22 and Suarez is more likely to make his Clasico debut then.
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The 27-year-old will not have even played a one-two with Andres Iniesta nor practiced a neat dummy with Messi when his new club make the trip to face Carlo Ancelotti's European champions. He will not be up-to-speed with his teammates physically or mentally and to perform to the best of his undoubted abilities against Madrid will be an ask of epic proportions. Suarez needs time and if he is included in the squad to face Los Merengues everything would point to a political push rather than a tactical decision.
It seemed like more than a coincidence that the fixture fell on the weekend the controversial striker was due to return. Television rights for Clasico contests are big bucks and Suarez making his debut for Barcelona on such a stage would only boost the coffers. But, the date the fixture fell was not out of the ordinary. The first Clasico match of last season took place on the same weekend and the Spanish giants are often pitted together in October and March to seemingly try and maximise the competitiveness of the fixture.
Luis Suarez has officially joined Barcelona for £75m The date may not even be so crucial at all. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) could reduce the £75 million man's ban so he can make his Barcelona debut much earlier, even in time for the start of the season, and be ready for his first Clasico outing. An initial appeal against the ban was rejected by FIFA but Barcelona decided to take matters to the CAS and are awaiting a response.
A decision in favour of Suarez would be a big boost for the Catalans, especially given Neymar is recovering from a fractured vertebra that ruled him out of Brazil's emphatic defeat against Germany in the World Cup and puts his inclusion in the early weeks of La Liga very much in doubt. It would also allow the Uruguay star to hit the top of his game just in time to take on Barca's biggest rivals to reclaim the title from Atletico Madrid this season.
On the flip side, a decision may not be in his manager's hands at all if the ban is upheld and if the fixture is penned in for Saturday, October 25 and not a day later. Should the match be picked to kick-off on Saturday Suarez would not be allowed to return anyway. With kick-off times not usually confirmed until much closer to the date, both Barca and Madrid could be left waiting to see if the Uruguayan is in with a chance of making his bow that weekend.
Suarez will get his moment to shine in El Clásico but unless the CAS slash his suspension that moment is unlikely to be at the end of October.
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