Barça legends Gerard Piqué and Xavi to play for Catalonia in showpiece Venezuela friendly
The Catalan line-up will make their debut in a FIFA international window on Monday
Legendary Barcelona stars Gerard Piqué and Xavi Hernández are among the high-profile players who have been selected to represent the Catalonia national football team in their friendly match against Venezuela on Monday.
Head coach Gerard López had a wider range of personnel to choose from than for previous fixtures, as for the first time in their history, Catalonia have been granted permission to play during an official FIFA window.
Piqué, 32, who retired from his Spain commitments last summer but remains a first-choice center-back for Barça, will make a return to international football for the one-off game against the Copa América participants.
Meanwhile Xavi, 39, Barcelona's all-time top appearances-holder, will enjoy a rare outing back on the pitch in his native country, having spent the last four seasons playing in the Qatari league with Doha side Al Sadd SC.
"Xavi and Piqué are two hugely important names for the success of the match and because of everything they represent," said López. "Their appearance is a big plus to help us fill the stadium and to put on a great show."
The Blaugrana greats will be joined at Girona FC's 14,000-seater Montilivi Stadium by a mixture of more global talent and local heroes, including a number of players who will be familiar to followers of English football.
"Xavi and Piqué are two hugely important names for the success of the match and because of everything they represent"
Gerard López · Catalan national team coach
Stoke City striker Bojan Krkic, Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu and Brighton & Hove Albion defender Martín Montoya, as well as Manchester City loanee Aleix García, make up the Premier League contingent.
García, currently at Girona, will be one of a quartet of players on home turf, plus Álex Granell, Pere Pons and Marc Muniesa.
Other notable names from the Spanish La Liga include former Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund defender Marc Bartra, now at Real Betis, alongside Sevilla right-back Aleix Vidal, previously of Barcelona and Espanyol.
📋 Convocatòria de la Selecció Catalana Absoluta per al #CatalunyaVeneçuela, a manca de la confirmació dels dos futbolistes que completaran la llista en substitució dels jugadors de la SD Huesca— Fed Cat Futbol (@FCF_CAT) 20 March 2019
(📍Montilivi, 25/03)#SeleccionsCAT #SomFutbol #SomFederació pic.twitter.com/VxizwGbTqU
However, relegation-threatened clubs Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano did not give their Catalan players permission to be called up, citing the need to "prioritize" their own interests and avoid the risk of injuries.
Likewise, Spain internationals such as Barcelona trio Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto and Sergio Busquets, will not be available due to their participation in Euro 2020 qualification for Luis Enrique's side.