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Messi to face Catalunya XI in Argentina friendly

Barcelona star Lionel Messi is set to play against a Catalunya selection after Argentina coach Diego Maradona named a squad on Thursday for a friendly he is banned from taking part in.

Argentina will play in Barcelona on December 22 against the region of Catalunya, who are coached by Johan Cruyff. The autonomous Spanish region typically plays a high-profile friendly late each year.

Headlining the squad with locally-based Messi are Real Madrid's in-form Gonzalo Higuain, Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez, and Javier Mascherano of Liverpool. Maradona's prolific use of new players in his reign continues with a first call up for midfielder Cristian Alvarez, who plays for Argentina's Arsenal.

Maradona was banned by FIFA for two months in mid-November for insults directed at reporters after his team secured their place in the 2010 World Cup finals against Uruguay in Montevideo last month.

He apologised to FIFA at a hearing on November 15, the day after Argentina lost 2-1 to Spain in Madrid in the Spanish Football Federation's centenary match.

His assistants, and former international team mates, Alejandro Mancuso and Hector Enrique, will be on the bench for the match. Maradona is also banned from the World Cup draw in Cape Town on December 4.

Argentina:

Goalkeepers: Diego Pozo (Colon-Santa Fe), Mariano Andujar (Catania)

Defenders: Nicolas Pareja (Espanyol), Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich), Nicolas Otamendi (Velez Sarsfield), Cristian Ansaldi (Rubin Kazan)

Midfielders: Fernando Gago (Real Madrid), Maximiliano Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid), Jesus Datolo (Napoli), Angel Di Maria, Pablo Aimar (both Benfica), Javier Mascherano (Liverpool), Mario Bolatti (Huracan), Cristian Alvarez (Arsenal, Argentina)

Forwards: Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli)

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