Barcelona are looking to end a turbulent week with their seventh Liga win of the season when they host Eibar on Sunday.
It was confirmed this week that club icon Johan Cruyff has been diagnosed with lung cancer, prompting a wave of support from current and former players for the former Netherlands international, with Barca captain Andres Iniesta among those to wish the 68-year-old well.
Allegations of corruption ahead of next month’s Clasico have also been raised. An unnamed match official was reported to have claimed he had been pressured by a member of Spain’s referee’s committee to try to sway the match in Real Madrid’s favour.
In better news for Barca, the club confirmed record revenue figures for the 2014-15 season on Thursday, news of which is set to provide the club with sizable resources in the January transfer window and could also secure Neymar’s future at Camp Nou.
And, following an important Champions League win over BATE, Ivan Rakitic – who scored both goals in the victory in Belarus – is determined for Barca to continue their current winning run.
“The most important thing was to help the team because it wasn’t easy. We worked very well, we have to continue like this,” he said.
Rakitic is one of six Barcelona players to have been named on FIFA’s 23-man shortlist for the 2015 Ballon d’Or, for which Lionel Messi remains the current favourite.
Despite the Argentina star missing the game with Eibar due to a knee injury, club captain Dani Garcia expects a supremely tough test at Camp Nou and has challenged his team-mates to be brave on the ball.
“They have a lot of possession and, when we have the ball, it’ll be a long way from their goal,” Garcia said. “We have to play our own game and, when we have the ball, try to do brave things.
“Messi’s absence gives us a few more opportunities but they still have great players, many of them nominated for the Ballon d’Or.”
Iniesta returned to training this week after a hamstring injury but Sunday’s game may come too quickly for the Spain star. Sergi Roberto (groin) will also miss out.
Eibar were dealt a blow by Friday’s announcement that Adrian Gonzalez will miss four weeks with an adductor injury, while Ivan Ramis (hamstring) is also out. Antonio Luna is still working on his recovery from a hamstring issue of his own.
Eibar are on a five game run without defeat away from home in La Liga – their best ever record in the top flight – while Barca have lost twice in their last four league matches.
Sunday’s visitors also have the lowest average possession (40.8 per cent) in the top flight this season. Barca (64.1 per cent) have the highest.