Iniesta says Barcelona will try to win 'clasico' for Cruyff
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 31, 2016 09:57 AM
A woman places flowers offering her respect to the late Dutch soccer Johan Cruyff at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, March 29, 2016. Dutch soccer great Johan Cruyff, who revolutionized the game as the personification of "Total Football," has died. He was 68. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — Winning the "clasico" against Real Madrid this weekend would be the best way to honor the late Johan Cruyff, Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said Wednesday.
The Dutch soccer great, who died last Thursday of lung cancer at 68, is largely credited with launching the club's era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.
"Without a doubt it would be very nice to defeat Madrid and dedicate the victory to Cruyff," Iniesta said at a news conference in Barcelona. "He gave a lot to us, to our fans and to the world of football."
Barcelona said there will be a tribute to Cruyff before the game at the Camp Nou, where a mosaic of 90,000 cards held by fans will display the words "Thanks, Johan," in Catalan. The words will also appear on Barcelona's jerseys, replacing the "world champions" shield.
Players from both teams will enter the field accompanied by children wearing shirts with the same message on the front and with the names of the Cruyff Foundation and Barcelona on the back.
Before kickoff, there will be a minute's silence and a video presentation in Cruyff's memory will be shown on the stadium's big screens.
All eight living Barcelona presidents are expected to attend Saturday's match.
"It will be a special game and hopefully it will give us extra motivation," Iniesta said.
Barcelona organized four days of mourning for Cruyff and said more than 60,000 fans visited the player's memorial at the Camp Nou this week. The former player died after a five-month battle with cancer.
The Catalan club enters the game with a nine-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid and a 10-point advantage over Real Madrid. A win will virtually eliminate Madrid from the title race. There will be seven rounds left in the Spanish league after this weekend's games.
Barcelona is enjoying a record 39-game unbeaten streak and has a chance to win a treble for the second season in a row. It will play the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla in May, and is in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Coach Luis Enrique received some bad news ahead of the 'clasico' on Wednesday as the club announced that defender Jeremy Mathieu tore a meniscus in his right knee while playing for France on Tuesday. He will need to undergo surgery and is expected to be out for the rest of the season.