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By ESPN Staff

Eto'o returns to Barcelona squad for Bilbao

MADRID, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Striker Samuel Eto'o returned to the Barcelona squad on Saturday after missing out on the team's back-to-back defeats against Valencia and Liverpool.

The Cameroon international, who is recovering fitness after a four-month absence following knee surgery, was named in an 18-man squad for Sunday's match at home to Athletic Bilbao.

Eto'o returned to action at the start of the month when he played the last five minutes of the 0-0 draw against Osasuna, but he refused to come on as a late substitute the following week against Racing Santander saying he needed a longer warm-up.

He was then left out of the squad for the matches against Valencia and Liverpool at his own request.

'Samuel told me he is ready to play and that means he is feeling good again,' coach Frank Rijkaard told a news conference.

'Personally I think we'll have to wait and see tomorrow. He still needs time to recover full fitness.'

Fellow forwards Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Javier Saviola, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Ludovic Giuly were also included in the squad for Sunday's match at the Nou Camp.

Rijkaard decided to rest Mexican international Rafael Marquez. Midfielder Deco and defender Gianluca Zambrotta will miss out through suspension, while right back Juliano Belletti is injured.

The Barca boss played down media criticism of Ronaldinho who has been accused of being overweight after photos taken following the Liverpool match appeared to show him with a roll of fat around his waist.

'He is a player who has always performed well for the team and it is a shame that some people are turning against him,' said the Dutchman. 'The players have huge confidence in him because of his skill and also because he is a great team mate.'