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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 8 hours ago
Read
Mar 18, 2013

Barca urge Xavi caution from Spanish FA

Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta has asked the Royal Spanish Football Federation to think of the club's upcoming schedule when deciding whether or not key playmaker Xavi Hernandez features in La Roja's two upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

• Messi: I will return home

Xavi has been included in national coach Vicente Del Bosque's 24-man squad for the crucial games against Finland in Gijon on Friday and France in Paris next Tuesday, despite the ongoing hamstring injury which saw him miss Barca's 3-1 La Liga win over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday night.

Barca club doctor Ricard Pruna said on Saturday that a risk had been taken in playing Xavi in last week's 4-0 Champions League win over AC Milan, and that he was "concerned" the player could aggravate the injury on international duty.

Speaking after Sunday evening's game on Spanish TV station Canal Plus, former Spanish international goalkeeper Zubizarreta said Barca had key games coming up which he hoped Xavi would not miss.

"We know Xavi's physical situation, and the federation know it too," he said. "The national teams play a lot of games, but April and May are very important for us, decisive for this club. We ask for everyone to understand our schedule. We hope everything goes well for everyone."

Club-versus-country concerns have also arisen in the case of Barca and Spain defender Carles Puyol, who was surprisingly not included when Del Bosque announced his squad on Friday, and who then seemingly made a snap decision to have an ongoing knee problem corrected by surgery.

Puyol's recovery is expected to take about six weeks, and Zubizarreta said the idea was for the blaugrana captain to return fully fit for the final weeks of the campaign.

"We knew Puyol had problems with his knee, and in the end it was decided this was the best option," he said. "We hope that operation will help him to play at the end of the season."

Barca saw off Rayo with two goals from Lionel Messi and one from David Villa, with Messi setting up Villa for the opener, and Villa then returning the favour with the assists for both of Messi's strikes.

Zubizarreta said the game had featured two teams who wanted to play attacking football, and also showed how well Villa and Messi could play together.

"We saw a good game of football, also because Rayo came here to try and play," he said. "We were coming from a demanding game on Tuesday, but we passed the ball well and played a good game. [Villa and Messi] are both top-level players, capable of scoring and setting up goals. Goalscorers always have a special personality. Both of them played well."

The former blaugrana player said he expected Tito Vilanova back in Barcelona soon, but the coach himself would decide when he returned to the Camp Nou bench.

"He is close to returning, which is very good news," Zubizarreta said. "It is a complicated situation. He is finishing up all he has to do in New York. We will see him when he returns, and he will decide when he returns to the bench."

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