Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo has said he expects Barcelona’s visit on Saturday to be “a football game, not a political demonstration.”
The game comes amid a turbulent political situation in the aftermath of Catalonia’s unilateral referendum on independence.
Barca’s match against Las Palmas on Oct. 1, the day of the referendum, was played behind closed doors amid unrest, while defender Gerard Pique, who said people should be allowed to decide the future of the region, was abused by fans while on international duty with Spain.
A faction of Atletico fans were reportedly involved in a street brawl in Barcelona during celebrations of Spain’s national holiday on Thursday, while the “Frente Atletico” fans group has called for the Wanda Metropolitano to be filled with Spanish flags on Saturday.
The Spanish government’s anti-violence committee has not declared the game to be “high risk,” meaning there will not be extra police and security measures around the stadium.
Cerezo told “El Transistor” radio show: “We have been living through politically complicated weeks, above all in Barcelona.
“But I believe our fans are aware that politics is one thing and a game of football is something else.
“As a club we are just about sports and have no reason to get into any political issues, especially given the current circumstances.
“This is a football game, not a political demonstration, which take place elsewhere.
“We want to play against Barcelona with the usual sporting spirit. Atleti won La Liga at the Camp Nou [in 2014] and the whole stadium applauded us. That should not be forgotten.
“The fans are going to watch a game of football, a sporting spectacle, with their family and friends. They are not going to a political rally.”
Barca have said no away tickets were made available to their supporters’ clubs for the game, but Cerezo said: “Barcelona asked us for 1,000 tickets, but we were only able to give them 250 due to our commitments to our own socios.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan