Turkey will host Champions League final in August

Barcelona's Andres Iniesta confident of fitness for Champions League final


Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said he is confident of being fit to face Juventus in Saturday's Champions League final against Juventus, despite missing training again on Tuesday.

Iniesta was substituted early in the second half of Saturday's 3-1 Copa del Rey final win over Athletic Bilbao, and immediately applied ice to a calf muscle as he watched the remainder of the game from the bench, although the issue did not stop him playing a full part in the team's celebrations after the final whistle.

The 31-year-old did not take part in Tuesday's open training session at Barca's Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, but told reporters afterward that the issue was not serious, and he had not even considered the possibility of missing out on Saturday's clash with Juventus in Berlin.

"I had some discomfort and nothing else," Iniesta said. "Not playing on Saturday has not passed through my head at all. I hope to be ready to play and help team to win the Champions League, which we all want, to end a very special season."

Sitting beside Iniesta at the official UEFA media event was Xavi Hernandez, who replaced his long-time teammate against Athletic last weekend, and who would be in line to start against Juve if required.

Asked by a reporter if it was strange to be preparing for a final thinking you would be unlikely to start the game, a question which brought a smile to the face of both Xavi and Iniesta, the 35-year-old responded that he was just looking forward to playing whatever role required as the team looked to add the CL trophy to the already secured La Liga and Copa prizes.

"Any minutes I play will be extraordinary, and even more in a Champions League final," Xavi said. "This is a dream end of my career as a Barcelona player, I could not even have dreamed this. We have won the double, but treble is still there to do. We want to end the year with another trophy."

Iniesta added that the Barca team would see winning just the second treble in the club's history as a fitting way for Xavi to end his 17th season as a blaugrana first teamer.

"There is no doubt that this day would be perfect," he said. "Anyway it is spectacular season for a unique player like him to say goodbye in the best way. The image of him lifting the Champions League trophy would be perfect for him, for Barca and for all his teammates. All motivations of this type, in a game where you do not need more motivation, are welcome."

Speaking soon afterwards, Barca coach Luis Enrique was uninterested in a question as to whether victory on Saturday would be a blow back against those who criticised him earlier during his first season in charge.

"I do not live in a world of extremisms," Luis Enrique said. "I am the same now as at the start of the season. I just do my work and enjoy it. We will do the same routine with the players, many of them have been in this situation before. We have had a very good Champions League, although we have lost a few games, we have come through against the champions of England, France, Germany, now we play against the Italian champions. Finals always have a very important psychological aspect, but we are convinced we will play good game, that we will be intense, that we will be as motivated as Juve."

Luis Enrique did smile when reminded that he himself had faced Juventus in a key CL game, 2003's quarter-final second leg at the Camp Nou, when the then Barca midfielder was through on goal but shot wide when still Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon sprung from his line to narrow the angle.

'I do not have a great memory, but that day I have remembered many times," he said. "I had a very clear chance to score, for sure it would have sent us through. But I missed it. So I remember that move. Buffon is still a great keeper, enormous level.'

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