Focus on pitch and in stands for Barcelona derby

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Madrid, Sep 8 (IANS) The attention of fans in the Camp Nou stadium here is likely to be focused on two different areas when Barcelona entertain city rivals Espanyol on Saturday — on the pitch and also in the directors’ box.

Saturday is likely to see the debut of Barcelona’s record signing Ousmane Dembele, while the much-questioned arrival Paulinho is also likely to make his first appearance on home turf in the game, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, no matter how much interest Dembele and Paulinho may provoke, Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu is likely to have almost as many camera lenses focused on him as the players.

It was a difficult summer for Bartomeu and the club’s Sporting Director Robert Fernandez as they struggled to bring in the signings the club so clearly needed, while at the same time seeing what effects Neymar left in joining Paris Saint Germain.

The club promised two signings in the last week of the transfer window and none arrived and Bartomeu was booed by fans at Dembele’s presentation in the Camp Nou stadium.

Things got worse for the President on Thursday when midfielder Andres Iniesta publically refuted his claims that Iniesta and the club had reached an agreement for the Spain international to extend his contract at the club which is due to expire at the end of the current season.

Meanwhile, Leo Messi has also to sign his new contract, despite Bartomeu saying in July that everything had been agreed and as a result the President can be expected to feel uncomfortable as he takes his seat.

On the pitch Barcelona have won their opening two games of the season, despite not playing their best football and they can expect Espanyol to again make things difficult for them.

The good news for coach Ernesto Valverde is that Luis Suarez is fit again after missing the first two games of the season, although it is doubtful he will last 90 minutes. That could give Dembele the chance to make his mark and Bartomeu will no doubt be crossing his fingers to send the club’s record signing to play without delay.

–IANS

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