BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona’s institutional instability shows no sign of going away after another week of confusion in the transfer market, and the team will need to put on a show of unity in their first away trip of the season against Alaves.
Barca got off to a winning start by beating Real Betis 2-0 last week, although a reported U-turn on signing Ivorian midfielder Jean Michael Seri from Nice leaves them with a weakened squad following the departure of Neymar to Paris St Germain, with moves for Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele far from being completed.
Meanwhile, the Barca board escalated their bitter dispute with Neymar by announcing plans to sue him for 8.5 million euros ($10 million) for breach of contract, the latest sign that the club is still reeling from the sale of one of their top players.
Reported divisions between the club’s hierarchy and players appeared to be highlighted by Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique posting pictures on social media welcoming the Brazilian back to the city during the week, which has been viewed in the Spanish media as a thinly veiled attempt to show they are on the side of their former teammate.
Meanwhile, Messi has still not signed the contract he agreed with the club in July and captain Andres Iniesta has said his future at the club is uncertain.
In the midst of this instability, Barca travel to Alaves, who beat them 2-1 at the Nou Camp last year in a shock result.
The Catalans hammered the Basque side 6-0 away and beat them 3-1 in the King’s Cup final, but are still without injured striker Luis Suarez, although Iniesta could return.
Alaves lost 1-0 to Leganes in their opening game, although defender Rodrigo Ely hopes they can capitalise on Barca’s troubles by extending their strong record at their Mendizorrotza stadium, where they only lost four times last campaign.
“Barcelona are in a new process and have to improve but at home Alaves are difficult to beat,” Ely told reporters.
“It’s a very difficult game against one of the best teams in the world but we’ll try and take points away from them. We will fight and compete like we did last year against teams that have more quality than us.”
Champions Real Madrid showed their class with a 3-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna last week without Cristiano Ronaldo through suspension, and will still be shorn of their Portuguese talisman as well as captain Sergio Ramos against Valencia on Sunday.
Atletico Madrid will be looking to improve on their 2-2 draw with Girona when they visit Las Palmas, but will have to do without forward Antoine Griezmann, who is suspended after being sent off last week.
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Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by David Holmes