Live streaming of Tata Martino’s men train at the Mini for the team traditional open doors training session
FC Barcelona’s keeper was given the green light to return to competitive play after an injury sidelined him for 44 days
Today is full of good news for FC Barcelona. After this afternoon’s training session Víctor Valdés was given the green light to return to competitive football. Therefore, he’s available for selection for this Sunday’s league match at the Camp Nou against Elche.
In fact, keeper talked to the press ahead of the Christmas break and said his goal was to be math fit for the game against Elche. He was seen training alongside Juanjo Brau on Christmas day.
Valdés has been out of action for 44 days due to an injury he picked up in the international friendly against South Africa. During this time José Manuel Pinto has defended Barça’s goal. Valdés has missed a total of eight matches in all competitions (Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey). Of these, the team have won six and lost two (Ajax and Athletic Club) and conceded eight goals.
If he plays against Elche, the defender will make his 250th appearance for Barça
Gerard Piqué could start 2014 by making his 250th appearance for FC Barcelona on Sunday at the Camp Nou against Elche (16.00). So far, he has featured in 152 league games, 26 in the Copa del Rey, 58 in the Champions League, 9 in the Spanish Supercup, 1 in the European Supercup and 3 in the Clubs World Cup.
Sixth season at Barça
It is six years since Piqué returned home to Barcelona after spells at Manchester United and Real Zaragoza. He was only 21 in 2008, when he arrived at the same time as new manager Pep Guardiola. The Catalan soon became one of the first choice centre backs, and one of the most renowned players in the world in that position, testimony of that being his frequent inclusion in UEFA and FIFA teams of the year.
But more than individual accolades, it is what his team has achieved that really matters. At Barça, Gerard Piqué has won 16 major trophies: four leagues, two Champions Leagues, two Copas del Rey, two European Supercups, four Spanish Supercups and two Clubs World Cups.
Now approaching his 17th birthday, Piqué is about to become the sixth member of the squad to make it to 250 games, following on from Xavi, Puyol, Valdés, Iniesta and Messi, with Alves and Sergio Busquets not too far behind. And this happens in the same season when the Barça centre back scored his team’s 1,000th goal in international tournaments.
“When you have a chance of reaching the top, you have to fight hard”, commented the midfielder
Iniesta also said that Messi’s return “is one of the best pieces of news of the day”
Andrés Iniesta knows that if they do their job right, Barça have every chance of winning all of the major trophies this season. “A good new year for us means winning everything” said the midfielder in Thursday’s press conference, “when you have the chance to reach the top, you have to fight hard, and that’s the kind of ambition that we hope will take us into April and May in contention … The team is playing well, and we need to grow from here. The squad is good enough to carry on winning”.
It is Iniesta’s personal opinion that “if the team functions, it’s easy for each player to feel comfortable, so this year we need to keep training and playing well … I want to keep improving as a player, that’s what makes me happy.”[[CITA_1]]
Against Elche on Sunday at the Camp Nou a (16.00), Barça begin what is always a busy month of January, with league games at the weekend and cup games midweek. But Iniesta reckons “the team is in very good shape and feeling very positive indeed … We need to carry on as we ended last year. They key is not think any further beyond our upcoming match, first we should worry about the weekend fixture and then change the chip and start thinking about the cup”.
But there is one game that everyone is talking about. Atlético Madrid v FC Barcelona is on Saturday, January 11. “It’ll be an intense match because of the opponent and the venue, but I don’t think it’ll be definitive as there’s still a long way to go” said Iniesta. “But we are looking forward to playing that game and getting three points there”.
Leo Messi is due back this afternoon after a month in Argentina recovering from injury. Iniesta feels that “this is one of the best pieces of news of the day, we all know how much weight he carries in this team”. Barça have still managed to get results despite missing their biggest star, but Iniesta still feels that his return “will make us stronger. Messi is the number one and when you’ve got a player as good as him in your side, everything is that much easier.” Adding that he has been in contact with his team-mate during his absence, asking how he is feeling, Iniesta continued by saying that Messi’s return “is great news for him, because he’s at his happiest when he’s playing, but it’s also great news for the team and the supporters”.
Iniesta is also pleased to welcome back his colleague and close friend Víctor Valdés. “It hasn’t been an easy time” he concluded. “A month is a long time but what matters is that he is just the same as ever. For me, he’s the number one, and he still has time to enjoy that”.
Neymar, Song, Alexis and Mascherano were all back to work on Thursday, with Messi due to arrive later today
Alves is also back in Barcelona but missed training after going down with a fever. Afellay was able to train normally
The players that live outside of Spain were back in training this morning. FC Barcelona started 2014 with 20 players, with all of Neymar, Song, Alexis and Mascherano back alongside their colleagues. They were joined by the players that had already trained at the end of 2013 (Valdés, Pinto, Puyol, Xavi, Pedro, Montoya, Bartra, Piqué, Alba, Sergio, Cesc, Sergi Roberto, Tello, Iniesta, Adriano and Afellay, who was once again able to complete the full session). Tata Martino therefore has practically all of his squad together as he prepares for Sunday’s game at the Camp Nou against Elche (16.00).
As planned, Leo Messi will be returning to the club this Thursday evening, when there is a second session scheduled for 19.00. But Dani Alves was unable to attend training this morning. Although the Brazilian is back in town, he has gone down with a fever and stayed at home, while Cuenca worked out on his own.