Real Madrid and Barcelona meet amid Messi doubts, security fears

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (R) challenges Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos during their Spanish first division “Clasico” soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. (File photo: Reuters)

The biggest game of the year has arrived in Spain, filled with doubts over the presence of one of its biggest stars and surrounded by security concerns prompted by the attacks in Paris.

Real Madrid and Barcelona will play at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Saturday in the first clasico of the season.

Authorities are promising unprecedented security measures because of what happened in France last week, but it remains unclear whether Barcelona’s Lionel Messi will be fit to play following a long injury layoff.

Messi returned to practice this week, nearly two months after tearing a ligament in his left knee, but the club is yet to say whether he will be available.

“Messi can change the game and he’s done incredible things in previous clasicos,” Barcelona striker Luis Suarez said. “But it depends on the doctors and what they think is best for him. He has looked good while training with us over the last few days but it’s an injury that could take a sudden turn for the worse.”

Midfielder Andres Iniesta said “the news from training is positive” regarding Messi’s condition.

“We’ll see how he’s feeling on Saturday,” Iniesta said. “Let’s hope he can play, whether that’s from the start or not, because he’s an essential player for us.”

Messi is the all-time leading scorer in the clasico with 21. Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 15 goals, is guaranteed to start for Madrid.

Increased security

Spanish authorities have declared the game a high-risk event and announced they will double the police presence at the Bernabeu.

Nearly 1,500 private security agents will be working during the game, and at least 1,000 national police officers.

Security zones will be implemented outside the stadium, keeping those without tickets or credentials away from the 81,000-capacity venue.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49