Messi inspires Barca victory at empty Nou Camp, Real win at home

Lionel Messi

GETTYLionel Messi has had disagreements with Ernesto Valverde over Luis Suarez

Barca had wanted to postpone the league match against Las Palmas because of clashes between police and voters on the day of the divisive referendum on Catalan independence. "We talked to the executives, the coaches and the players and we made a decision to play, but behind closed doors, as a protest".

"Throughout the most hard of times, Barça was the standard that represented Catalonia and the Catalan people's desire for freedom, a symbolism that has continued to be closely linked to the idiosyncrasy of the club and its members to this day", the club says on its website.

But a club statement from Barcelona, released 25 minutes before the match was due to begin, said the Spanish Football League (LFP) had rejected a proposal for the fixture to be postponed, meaning the game will go ahead on schedule but without the presence of spectators, many of whom were outside the ground awaiting news of the kick-off.

Las Palmas added a Spanish flag to the shirts that the players wore against Barcelona to show its support for a unified Spain.

"The impact of playing at an empty Camp Nou is important".

Pique has been an outspoken supporter of Catalonia's right to self-determination.

Top scorer Lionel Messi then struck twice to seal Barca's seventh straight win of the Liga season which extended their lead at the top of the table to five points.

Barcelona will join a strike called across Catalonia on Tuesday in protest at a violent crackdown by police of an independence referendum called by pro-separatist politicians for the region on Sunday.

Catalan fans said that they were hopeful that the club would support the referendum.

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"I couldn't believe it".

Spanish media said that Barcelona vice president Carles Vilarrubi resigned after the club chose to play the game in an empty stadium.

"No matter how far away the Gran Canaria Stadium is, we have never felt the least temptation to be part of a country other than this".

"I have voted. Together we are unstoppable defending democracy", said Pique.

"I understand that there are supporters who do not understand that decision".

"We shall continue to tell the world about the reality of what's happening in our country and our commitment to its people and their freedoms, a commitment to which the club has remained faithful throughout its 118 years of history", the president said.

The 30-year-old has already announced his decision to retire from global football after next year's World Cup.

"It is unacceptable that in a democratic country people can not vote", added Xavi.

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