There is a strong chance Barcelona forward Neymar will be ruled out of this month’s El Clasico – and Cristiano Ronaldo is at risk of joining him on the sidelines.
Ronaldo will miss El Clasico if he picks up a yellow card in Real Madrid’s next league game. But the game is sandwiched between two Champions League legs against Bayern Munich, meaning that Ronaldo could get a rest.
Neymar was handed a red card as Barcelona suffered a shock 2-0 defeat at Malaga on Saturday, a result which scuppered their hopes of going top of La Liga after Real were held to a 1-1 draw against Atletico.
What started off as a seemingly silly moment when Neymar earned a yellow card for “delaying the game” while tying his boots turned serious later on when he was slapped with a second yellow card and was sent off. That left Barcelona with just 10 men on the pitch, as underdogs Malaga pulled further ahead to upset the reigning La Liga champions, 2-0.
After Neymar was sent off, the 25-year-old Brazilian apparently dealt out a sarcastic slow clap toward the fourth official, which was recorded in the match log. These match logs are what Spanish soccer’s governing body uses to determine if players should be fined and/or given additional suspensions and, well, mocking the referee generally doesn’t play well.
Looking at the recent past, it appears almost inevitable that Neymar will have to sit out at least one more game following the automatic suspension he’ll receive due to getting the red card. Past precedent suggests Neymar could miss up to four games.
Spanish league rules dictate that players receive longer suspension if they show ‘clear contempt’ for the match officials. Unsurprisingly, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique refused to criticise Neymar, instead focusing on the number of Malaga fouls that went unpunished.
“It’s curious that a team like us that doesn’t usually kick people gets so many yellow cards in such an incomprehensible manner,” Enrique said.
“There was some very ugly tackles from behind from their team, which didn’t see them get booked and others committed by us which were given yellows.
“The rules are there to be interpreted, but equally for everyone. I don’t understand certain fouls were not given to us, but we are used to it.”
The loss of Neymar in the star-studded Clasico will be felt, with the 25-year-old helping himself to 15 goals and 18 assists in all competitions this season.
But Ronaldo’s absence would arguably have more of an impact, with the Portuguese ace Real’s top scorer in La Liga.