October 27, 2017 / 6:56 PM / a year ago

Barca's Valverde skirts independence debate as Iniesta ruled out for Bilbao

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 La Liga.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - FC Barcelona vs Malaga CF - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - October 21, 2017 Barcelona’s Gerard Deulofeu celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates REUTERS/Albert Gea

The Spanish football league’s president Javier Tebas was previously quoted as saying that, should Catalonia become independent, the region’s sides would not be able to compete in La Liga.

Valverde declined to comment on the possibility of that happening.

“Nothing has happened (in relation to Barcelona not being in La Liga) 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 ruled was 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.

editing by John Stonestreet

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