Barcelona stars and boss set for derby
Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes says he is confident of overcoming a foot injury to play in Sunday's city derby against Espanyol at the Camp Nou.
Valdes pulled out of the Catalan national side's 1-1 draw with Nigeria on Wednesday with a foot problem known as 'policeman's heel' but says the issue should not interrupt his club commitments.
"I ended the Real Valladolid game (before Christmas) with a lot of discomfort," he said. "The problem is still there, but it is being treated. I trust I will be able to play the derby. For homegrown players this is a really important game. We give it the importance it deserves."
The Spain international was speaking after Thursday's training session at Barca's Ciutat Esportiva, where Tito Vilanova was again overseeing proceedings just two weeks after surgery to remove a tumour from his parotid gland.
Valdes said such dedication to the blaugrana cause was an example to everyone at the club.
"(The players) do not know if Tito will be there on Sunday," he said. "The most important thing is that he is well and happy. He and (Eric) Abidal are two examples for the team to follow, after all they have been through they continue to help the team and their team-mates. We respect all they do. They give us a lot of strength."
More good news for Barca fans were medical all-clears for former Arsenal midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song as well as Brazilian utility man Adriano Correia, while the cut eyebrow picked up Carles Puyol while playing for Catalonia against the Nigerians is unlikely to keep him out of Sunday's game.
Even though Barca were now nine points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid and 16 clear of Real Madrid in third they would not be easing off, Valdes said.
"We are not even halfway through the season yet," he said. "We have a good lead on second and third place, but it is not definitive. There is a long way to go yet. We are doing well but we need to keep it up."
Valdes, 30, who was born near Barcelona and has been at the club all his career, said he was not concerned yet about extending his current contract which ends in summer 2014.
"I am not worried about the contract issue," he said. "Time will tell. I have been here 11 years and it is difficult to play in goal for Barcelona. I would not rule out seeing other cultures, other types of football and other countries."