Barcelona guilty of trying it on in the 'Neymar affair'

Let's make no bones about it: Neymar's ban is utterly clear-cut. One match for the two yellow cards (both silly bookings) and two more for mocking a match official. Cristiano Ronaldo did the same at San Mamés and had to serve the two extra games. But Barcelona are seeking out a devious way of avoiding it, pulling a fast one with the Spanish Sports Tribunal (TAD) by sending their appeal once the panel's meeting was over and then leaning on an administrative law that would allow them to field the player. On Saturday night, with two of the seven TAD members still to be reached, the stand-off continued. Neymar will travel today and Luis Enrique is making plans "with him and without him".

Neymar (left) is sent off against Málaga earlier in April, leading to his current three-match ban.

Barcelona have two options on Neymar...

Barça can do two things: go out there without him and look to win the game to reignite their title bid; or pick him and face being done for fielding an ineligible player, which would cost them a 3-0 defeat. I'm not sure what they'll decide to do. The former would require a level of belief in their strength in depth that right now they don't seem to have; the latter guarantees them play-the-victim propaganda that'd be gobbled up by their sympathisers and, in a game which so many people from so many places will see, could also hit home further afield. In these times of permanent Catalan defiance of any body based in Madrid, that is a real temptation.

I guess Bartomeu won't go through with it...

They have no moral grounds at all to support them. There can be no arguing with the ban. All it is is a malicious strategy to try to get Neymar into this match via the back door and enable him to serve his punishment in another game. It's not right, or even reasonable. My guess is that, when push comes to shove, club president Josep María Bartomeu will see sense - if he hasn't totally lost his head, or control. On Saturday, a pal of mine who follows Los Azulgranas closely said: "Messi has run Barça from the pitch as long as he's been able. Now that he no longer can, nobody is." Hopefully the TAD locates its 'unreachables' (it refuses to tell us which members they are), resolves the matter in time, and we don't have to take this all the way.