MIAMI — FC Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola confirmed on Monday afternoon that star players Xavi Hernández and Gerard Piqué are expected to see their first minutes of preseason when the defending European champions take on Mexican side CD Guadalajara on Wednesday night at Sun Life Stadium (8 pm ET, ESPN2, Galavisión).
Xavi (above) joined full preseason practice sessions with the team last Friday after undergoing a training regimen to fortify his Achilles, an area which proved problematic for the Spanish national team midfielder during the last European season. Piqué is also slowly making his way back from a left calf injury.
While Guardiola also confimed defender Carles Puyol’s absence as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, another player whose absence came as a surprise was Jeffren Suárez, who looks set to join American defender Oguchi Onyewu at Sporting Clube de Portugal.
“Jeffren’s deal if not closed, it’s about to close,” Guardiola said in Monday's press conference. “He’s going to Portugal. He’s a kid that came up with us and when he came to the first team, he helped a lot in everything. We knew that for his age, three years of not playing were not ideal. He wanted to play more and so the best thing for him and his family is in Lisbon although he had other options.
“We thank him for the years he gave us and for his behavior with us which has been exemplary. We wish him the best of luck.”
While the club says goodbye to Jeffren on Monday afternoon as he heads to Lisbon to negotiate the final details of the transfer, FC Barcelona will welcome back Adriano, who joins the club on Monday after participating with the Brazilian national team at the Copa América.
Two other anticipated arrivals are those of Spain Under-19 international defender Sergi Gómez and forward Gerard Deulofeu, who helped Spain clinch the European title against the Czech Republic on Monday in Romania.
Taking into account the absences of Ibrahim Afellay, who tore his hamstring against Manchester United, and fellow forward Jonathan Soriano, who strained knee ligaments at the Audi Cup in Germany, the youngsters’ arrivals will help Guardiola spread the minutes in Barcelona’s final two World Football Challenge matches against Chivas on Wednesday and Club América on Saturday at Cowboys Stadium.
“We’re not many and we have little time [between matches],” Guardiola said. “And with the travel, I need people to play minutes since with others, we have surpassed their minutes.”
After an early Monday practice at the University of Miami’s Cobb Field, the players were given the afternoon to themselves to rest — Guardiola says he makes sure to give the team an afternoon off in each city. The La Liga champs will get together again on Tuesday morning.