Barcelona in bonus dispute with Arturo Vidal
La Liga leaders Barcelona will be looking to preserve their two-point lead over Real Madrid when they visit local rivals Espanyol on Sunday morning (Singapore time), but their preparations have been hit by a legal battle with their own midfielder Arturo Vidal.
The Chilean's lawyers filed a complaint to Spain's players' union last month citing an unpaid bonus of 2.4 million euros (S$3.2m), news of which emerged while the player was back in his homeland during the league's winter break.
Barca have declined to comment on the complaint, while Vidal has said it's an issue for his representatives. But he has declared it is "unfair" he has not received all of the 4.1 million euros his people believe he is owed in appearance bonuses.
Vidal has started only four of Barca's 18 league games this season, making 10 substitute appearances, and was left out of the line-up for the club's biggest matches against Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.
He has not accepted his drop in influence in the team quietly, telling Catalan network TV3 last November that he would "look for a solution and search other horizons" if he did not regain a regular place in the side.
But his dispute with the club comes at a time when the team are light in midfield, with Brazilian Arthur ruled out for three weeks with a groin problem while Carles Alena has joined Real Betis on loan.
The Catalan side are also without first-choice goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, meaning Brazilian Neto will make his league debut in the derby against Espanyol, who are bottom of table and have appointed their third coach of the season in Abelardo Fernandez.
Real Madrid slipped two points behind the champions after drawing their final game of 2019 at home to Athletic Bilbao. They begin the new year with a gruelling match at neighbours Getafe, who are sixth in the standings.
Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, will be looking to continue their strong end to the year which took them back into the top four when they host Levante in search of a third win in a row.
Once the weekend's league action is over, Atletico, Barca, Real and Valencia will head to Saudi Arabia to contest the revamped Spanish Super Cup, with the top flight resuming on Jan 17. - REUTERS