El Clásico: Luis Enrique has plans with and without Neymar as Barcelona await ban verdict

Tony Mogan
Neymar

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique is preparing two different sides for Sunday's El Clasico showdown with Real Madrid – one including Neymar and the other without him.

Neymar, 25, was handed a retrospective three-match ban on 11 April for sarcastically applauding a fourth official after being sent off in the defeat to Malaga. That suspension that immediately ruled him out of Sunday's derby which Barcelona must win to keep their La Liga hopes alive.

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But just a day away from the match, the situation remains unresolved. Barcelona saw their appeal against the decision turned away by the Spanish football federation last week, but confirmed on Friday their decision to take their case to Spain's Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAD).

However, reports in Spain suggest Barcelona intentionally waited until the end of the day on Friday to officially lodge their appeal, hoping the delay over the weekend would effectively postpone TAD's final decision. With TAD not expected to reconvene until Monday morning, Barcelona are hoping to risky delay frees Neymar up to feature on Sunday.

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Ahead of the derby with Real Madrid, Barcelona boss Luis Enrique was reluctant to discuss the legal side of the Neymar situation. He did defend the club's decision however and insisted his side will be ready – with or without the Brazilian.

Enrique told a press conference on Saturday: "I think what the club is doing is correct, they are defending the interests of the club and players. So I think it is correct and logical what's being done and from a coaches point of view I am preparing for the game for both with and without Neymar."

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Barcelona's efforts to have Neymar available for selection could have consequences given the unique nature of the situation.

One journalist asked Enrique if he would be prepared to select Neymar even if no final decision was handed down by TAD before kick-off. The Barcelona boss replied: "You will find that out when the game is played."

Real Madrid are three points ahead of their arch-rivals and will have one game in hand after Sunday's match.

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