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Xavi & Pique to feature for Catalonia in Venezuela friendly

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Catalonia friendly brings home former Barca captain

Catalonia will play Venezuela in an international friendly on Monday, bringing Barcelona legends Xavi and Gerard Pique out of international retirement.

For current Barca star Pique, this will be his 10th appearance for Catalonia, while Xavi made his debut for the side in 1998 and has gone onto feature 12 times for them throughout the previous 21 years.

The 39-year-old, who is widely regarded as one of the best central midfielders of all time, officially retired from international football in 2014 but has been playing club football for Qatar outfit Al Sadd since leaving Barcelona in 2015.

Pique also retired from the international game last year after the 2018 World Cup, but is still a mainstay in Barcelona's defence as the Catalans look to do the treble this season by winning La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

Though Catalonia are not registered by FIFA or UEFA, they are still able to partake in friendly matches, with their last game coming in the form of a 3-3 draw against Tunisia in 2016 - they subsequently lost the tie on penalties.

Pique's former Barcelona team-mate - Marc Bartra - will also link up with the squad to face Venezuela, with Spain boss Luis Enrique overlooking the 14-cap international for the forthcoming European Qualifiers against Norway and Malta this weekend.

Sevilla's Aleix Vidal, Southampton's Oriol Romeu and Stoke City's Bojan Krkic have also been granted permission by their respective clubs to join the Catalonia squad - they're all expected to feature from the outset.

Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu will also feature for Catalonia in Monday's clash

Three La Liga clubs refuse the release of their players

For three La Liga sides battling relegation, the threat of injury was too much of a risk and they have blocked a number of their key players from being involved.

Real Valladolid, who currently sit 16th in the Spanish top-flight, have prevented midfielder Ruben Alcaraz and goalkeeper Jordi Masip from joining up with the squad, while manager Sergio Gonzalez was also meant to be helping out as a coach before deciding to focus on club duties.

In a statement, the club said: “The club respects the Catalonian Federation, but is putting their sporting interests first heading into a decisive part of the season and we want to avoid any possible injury risks with our footballers.”

Bottom side Huesca have also not allowed forward Enric Gallego and winger Alejandro Falguera to travel, while second-bottom Rayo Vallecano have blocked left-back Alex Moreno and goalkeeper Alberto Garcia's involvement for the upcoming friendly match.

Catalonia manager Gerard Moreno said that he was 'disappointed' but accepted the decision made by the three La Liga strugglers.

“It’s not hurt me, we had permission to play this game but we just need to accept the clubs’ decisions,” he said.

“I think the lads really wanted to come and play, that’s normal, but I accept what the clubs have said, everyone has their motives.”

Squad in full

Goalkeepers: Isaac Becerra, Edgar Badia

Defenders: Gerard Pique, Martin Montoya, Marc Bartra, Aleix Vidal, Didac Vila, Marc Muniesa, Marc Cucurella

Midfielders: Xavi Hernandez, Victor Sanchez, Pere Pons, Oscar Melendo, Joan Jordan, Alex Granell, Oriol Romeu, Aleix Garcia

Forwards: Sergio Garcia, Bojan Krkic, Marc Cardona

Credit: @brfootball