Camp Nou reopens amid political confusion in Catalonia

For the first time since playing to an empty stadium in protest at a violent crackdown of an independence referendum in Catalonia, Barcelona's Camp Nou opens its doors when Olympiakos visits on Wednesday.

Barca has also been repeatedly fined by UEFA for fans flying the Catalan 'Estelada' flag, which has become a symbol of the independence movement within Catalonia.   -  AP

For the first time since playing to an empty stadium in protest at a violent crackdown of an independence referendum in Catalonia, Barcelona's Camp Nou opens its doors when Olympiakos visits on Wednesday.

On the field, Barca should have little problem sweeping aside an Olympiakos side without a point in the Champions League so far this season to consolidate its position atop Group D.

Read: Valverde ready for emotional game against old boys Olympiacos

However, how Barca's fans will react to a tumultuous few weeks of political tension in Catalonia is less predictable with the support split like the rest of society in the wealthy northeastern region of Spain.

"People come to the stadium to express themselves, to experience the game, to enjoy it and we hope that tomorrow people come to the stadium to enjoy watching us play," Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said on Tuesday.

"If someone wants to demonstrate one way or another isn't something that concerns us when we are preparing for a game."

Chants in favour of independence are common at the Camp Nou from a section of the Barca fanbase, most notably in the 17th minute to mark the fall of Catalonia in the Spanish War of Succession in 1714.

Barca has also been repeatedly fined by UEFA for fans flying the Catalan 'Estelada' flag, which has become a symbol of the independence movement within Catalonia, at Champions League matches.

Leading Barca players such as Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta called for politicians on both sides of the independence debate to negotiate in the wake of the October 1 referendum.

As Spanish riot police fired rubber bullets and seized ballot papers leaving 92 injured, among nearly 900 who sought medical attention that day, Barca beat Las Palmas 3-0 behind closed doors.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted he tried to have the match abandoned, but instead settled for showing their opposition by playing the match in an empty 99,000-capacity Camp Nou.

Confused standoff

Yet, players have been less keen to position themselves on the confused political fallout in the past few weeks.

A standoff has ensued with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy calling on Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to clarify if he has declared independence for Catalonia on the basis of the referendum, deemed illegal by the Spanish government.

However, thousands of people took to the streets of Catalonia again on Tuesday after a judge ordered the detention of two separatist leaders on Monday, reigniting the political touch paper.

"What we like is playing and enjoying ourselves in a spectacular atmosphere like today," said Iniesta after Barca's 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

Barca's first visit to the capital since the escalation of the political divide was expected to provoke a hostile welcome for the visitor.

However, other than the waving of more Spanish flags than normal at Atletico matches and some jeers for Pique, the match passed off peacefully.

"It was a great game, in a great atmosphere, in a great stadium," said Valverde.

Despite a series of distractions on and off the field, including the loss of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and calls for Bartomeu to resign on top of the Catalonia crisis, Barca has started impressively under Valverde.

A run of nine straight wins in La Liga and the Champions League was ended on Saturday, but Barca is heavy favourite to get back to winning ways against one of Valverde's former clubs.

Valverde won three league titles over two spells with the Greek giant, which has never won in 14 previous visits to Spain.

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