Football: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde skirts Catalonia independence debate as Andres Iniesta ruled out for Bilbao game

Barcelona's coach Ernesto Valverde reacts during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs Malaga CF. PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (REUTERS) - Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde declined to be drawn on Friday on whether a declaration of independence by Catalonia's parliament meant his side might end up being kicked out of LaLiga.

The Spanish football league's president Javier Tebas had previously been quoted as saying that, should Catalonia become independent, the region's football teams would not be able to compete in LaLiga.

Valverde declined to comment on the possibility of that happening.

"Nothing has happened (in relation to Barcelona not being in LaLiga) and we're only talking about hypothetical situations," he said. "I have my own opinion but I just want to concentrate on sporting questions, especially because the political situation appears to change every half hour."

In a bid to draw a line under Spain's worst political crisis in 40 years, the government in Madrid on Friday sacked Catalonia's regional government, dissolved the Catalan parliament and called a snap election in the region for Dec 21.

In what appears to be a doomed gesture, the parliament had hours earlier declared independence following a referendum on secession that Spanish courts had deemed illegal.

On the pitch, table-topping Barca confirmed that midfield playmaker Andres Iniesta would miss Saturday's visit to Athletic Bilbao.

The club captain, who this week was named in the FIFPro Team of the Year, has a thigh strain and adds to a growing list of absentees for Valverde that also includes Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha, Arda Turan, Aleix Vidal and Thomas Vermaelen.

The news is not all negative, however, with full-back Jordi Alba given the green light by the club's medical staff to return to action.

Valverde joined Barca from Bilbao in the summer and will visit his former club as coach of the Catalans for the first time, insisting he will not allow emotion to get the better of him.

"For me it's a special game. A lot of things link me to Athletic, but tomorrow I am the opponent," he said.

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