MADRID - Barcelona defender Eric Abidal
is to have surgery on a tumour in his liver on Thursday, a day
earlier than planned, the Spanish champions said on Wednesday.
The club, who announced the rescheduled operation on their
website, have not released details about
the kind of tumour the 31-year-old French international has and
it remains unclear how long he will be out of action.
His absence for any length of time will be a severe blow to
the La Liga leaders, who are five points ahead of Real Madrid
with 10 games left, given his superb form this season and their
relatively small squad.
Barca also have a chance of repeating the unprecedented
treble they won in the 2008/09 season as they are through to the
Champions League quarter-finals and play Real Madrid in the
final of Spain's King's Cup on April 20.
The versatile Abidal, one of the most popular players with
Barca fans, normally plays at left-back but has filled in
brilliantly in central defence when regulars Carles Puyol and
Gerard Pique have been absent.
"This is the toughest moment I have experienced in a dressng
room," midfielder Xavi said at a news conference on Wednesday
after Abidal visited the squad at training as they prepared for
this weekend's game at home to Getafe.
"But Abidal will get through it because he is one of the
strongest people mentally that I know," Xavi said.
"He is a paragon of optimism. He told us that life is like
that, that we should carry on as normal and that we should beat
Getafe on Saturday."
A host of La Liga players, including Real forward Cristiano
Ronaldo, sent Abidal messages of support via their Twitter feeds
after Barca announced he needed surgery on Tuesday.
Club president Sandro Rosell said on Wednesday Barca would
do everything in their power to help the player recover.
"Barca is 100 percent behind Eric Abidal," Rosell told
fcbarcelona.cat. "Health is more important than anything else in
life," he added. "Abi, Barca loves you."
Abidal joined the Catalan club from Olympique Lyon in 2007
and has also played for Ligue 1 sides Lille and AS Monaco.
He has made 52 appearances for France, including in the 2006
World Cup final against Italy when he netted a penalty in the
shootout that the Italians won 5-3.
Xavi said he could not understand why European governing
body UEFA had decided Real and Lyon should not be allowed to
wear shirts with a message of support for Abidal at their
Champions League match at the Bernabeu later on Wednesday.
"It seems a bit insensitive," he said. "There are much more
important things in life than football."
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