BARCELONA, Spain- Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde called on supporters to show no fear by attending an emotional La Liga opener for his side in the wake of two terrorist attacks in Catalonia.
A huge security operation will be put in place for Sunday’s match against Real Betis (kick off 1815GMT) at the club’s 99,000 capacity Camp Nou after the attacks this week killed 14 people and left hundreds injured.
“They are extraordinary and lamentable circumstances,” said Valverde on Saturday.
Thirteen people were killed when a van ploughed into packed crowds on Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas on Thursday.
Attackers struck again in the early hours of Friday morning in Cambrils, 120 kilometres south of Barcelona, where a car rammed into pedestrians, killing one person.
However, Valverde hoped fans wouldn’t be dissuaded by security fears and show the same spirit as huge crowds that gathered in the city’s central Plaza de Catalunya on Friday to chants of “not afraid.”
“We are calm. Moreover, we support the reaction of the people yesterday in Plaza Catalunya that ‘we are not afraid’,” added Valverde.
“We have to stand up to these circumstances and the best way is by moving forward.
“We know the way the world is, we are all potentially victims at any given moment, be it going to the metro station or going to a football ground.
“But it is something you can’t control and we can’t hide.”
Catalonia’s regional police force confirmed there would be additional officers on duty outside both the Camp Nou and for Girona’s meeting with Atletico Madrid on Saturday, just over 50 miles northeast of Barcelona.
“The recommendation is to go calmly, to be able to enjoy a game of football and that people can go reassured because the security presence is adequate for the number of people attending,” said Albert Oliva, a spokesman for the Mossos d’Esquadra.
As is normal for entry to stadiums in Spain, backpacks will be searched whilst large bags and suitcases are banned.
“Given the increase in situations of danger, terrorism, the club have already taken measures to reinforce security,” said a Barcelona club spokesperson.
“The rule is to apply the maximum possible measures, and in extraordinary situations like this, apply them much more strictly.”
A minute’s silence will be held before all games in Spain’s first and second divisions this weekend.
Barcelona players will also wear black armbands and shirts with ‘Barcelona’ replacing individual names on the back.
Former Barca defender Marc Bartra, himself the victim of a terrorist attack when a bomb hit the Borussia Dortmund team bus in April, paid his respects by kissing his black armband after scoring in Dortmund’s 3-0 win at Wolfsburg in the German league on Saturday.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane also paid his respects to the victims and their families.
“On behalf of the club, of everyone, I want to say we had a minute’s silence (before training) and we are thinking of all the families of victims who were affected,” said Zidane.
“In these very tough moments, we just want to tell them loud and clear that we are thinking of them.”