MADRID: Security measures being prepared for Barcelona's La Liga clash with rivals Real Madrid on Dec. 18 will guarantee the match in the Catalan city is not disrupted in any way by a pro-independence protest on the same day, police said on Friday.
About 3,000 public and private security officers will be dispatched inside and outside Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium to protect both teams, fans and match officials for the game, known as "El Clasico", Catalan regional police head Eduard Sallent told reporters.
Police are prepared for every eventuality but believe that protesters are unlikely to try to access the pitch during the game, he added.
The match was originally scheduled for Oct. 26 but it was postponed at the request of the league's organising over security concerns following demonstrations in Catalonia after the jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders.
"It was a wrong decision," said the Catalan regional government's interior councillor Miquel Buch, who argued that there was no reason to postpone the game because police would have guaranteed its security.
Secretive Catalan protest group Democratic Tsunami has called a protest four hours before the game's kickoff at several areas surrounding the stadium, saying it was part of its effort to call for dialogue between Spanish and Catalan authorities on the northeastern region's independence drive.
The group has not officially called on people to block supporters' access to the stadium nor to interrupt the game, but it said it has given instructions to fans who would be inside the stadium.
Catalan separatist politicians have encouraged people to protest, while Democratic Tsunami said on Tuesday that more than 18,000 people had registered to attend the protest.
The group previously organised a mass protest at Barcelona's airport and blocked a major highway between Spain and France.
(Reporting by Joan Faus; Editing by Toby Davis)