Neymar to miss El Clasico after three-match ban

MADRID • Barcelona's Brazilian superstar Neymar will miss a crucial LaLiga clash at Real Madrid on April 23 after being handed a three-game suspension, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said on Tuesday.

Neymar was shown the first red card of his Barcelona career for two bookable offences as Barca's title hopes suffered a big blow in a 2-0 defeat at Malaga on Saturday.

However, he was handed an extra two-match suspension because he sarcastically applauded the officials as he left the pitch. The forward will also miss Saturday's game against Real Sociedad and Osasuna's visit to the Nou Camp on April 26.

Neymar has 15 goals and 18 assists for Barcelona in all competitions this season and his absence in the Clasico is a huge setback for Luis Enrique's men.

The Spanish champions trail Real by three points, despite having played one game more, making the Clasico a match Barcelona can ill afford to lose.

In documents released by the RFEF, Barcelona argued Neymar's applause was not directed at anybody in particular, but was a "personal reaction" to being sent off.

Barcelona's statement added it makes "no sense" that Neymar would direct the gesture at the fourth official because that official had no say in the decision to send the player off.

"There is no intention... on the part of the player to insult offend, discredit or disregard the referee," Barcelona argued.

But the RFEF said Barcelona failed to "provide any evidence... to support its version of the facts."

Barcelona will reportedly appeal against the decision by the governing body of Spanish football.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'Neymar to miss El Clasico after three-match ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe