MADRID - Barcelona's gamble to rest key
players ahead of Tuesday's Champions League game at home to
Arsenal paid off when they beat Real Zaragoza 1-0 in La Liga to
move 10 points clear of Real Madrid.
David Villa, Eric Abidal and Andres Iniesta played only 29,
19 and nine minutes respectively at the Nou Camp on Saturday as
Mali midfielder Seydou Keita, making a rare start, grabbed the
only goal to give the leaders 74 points from 27 matches.
Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets was an unused substitute
while goalkeeper Victor Valdes returned from injury before Barca
attempt to overturn a 2-1 deficit from last month's last-16,
first leg in London.
"We will arrive at the match well prepared," said Barca
assistant coach Tito Vilanova, standing in for Pep Guardiola who
has a back problem.
"We rested some players today and improved the physical
condition of others," Vilanova told a news conference. "I think
they will all be able to play on Tuesday without problems."
He said Barca captain and central defender Carles Puyol, who
is nearing full fitness after a knee injury, may be able to play
against Arsenal after he was left out of the squad to play
Zaragoza as a precaution.
"The rotations worked well," said Argentina midfielder
Javier Mascherano who also started Saturday's match. "We won and
some of our more important players will be fresher."
Arsenal, also depleted by injuries, missed the chance to cut
the gap to Premier League leaders Manchester United to one point
when they were held to a goalless draw at home to Sunderland on
Cesc Fabregas, a former Barca youth player, Robin van Persie
and Theo Walcott were missing but manager Arsene Wenger said
Fabregas may be fit in time for Tuesday.
England midfielder Jack Wilshere picked up an ankle problem
and will miss training for one or two days, added Wenger.
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