Vissel’s Iniesta, David Villa and Samper brace for ex-team Barca - GulfToday

Vissel’s Iniesta, David Villa and Samper brace for ex-team Barca

Andres Iniesta

Vissel Kobe’s Andres Iniesta (right) and Barcelona’s Hiroki Abe seen at Noevir Stadium in Kobe on Friday. Associated Press

Kobe: Vissel Kobe from Japanese top flight will be playing hosts to Barcelona in a friendly on Saturday.

Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Sergi Samper -- all now Vissel players -- are looking forward to taking on their former teammates, with Iniesta saying on Friday that the face-off will be “an honour.”

The match in the Japanese city of Kobe will be a reunion of sorts and will be the first time Iniesta will be meeting his former team on the pitch.

“The team, Barcelona, is special... It will be a very important match for us,” Iniesta said.

World Cup-winning Iniesta, who lifted 32 major trophies with Barcelona, signed for Kobe last May in a historic J-League deal worth a reported $30 million a year. The 34-year-old was appointed the team’s captain in April.

The friendly is Barca’s last match in Japan before they head home, and midfielder Sergio Busquets said the chance to meet Iniesta on the pitch “means a lot” to the players.

“Now he is in Japan and having new experiences. But it does not change the fact that he is a very important friend still,” Busquets said.

“Now I am giving him these kind words, but tomorrow on the pitch I won’t be able to be like this. We will fight with full strength.”

The match comes after Chelsea defeated Barcelona 2-1 in their friendly in Saitama north of Tokyo earlier this week in a game that saw the unofficial debuts of World Cup-winning French striker Antoine Griezmann and former Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

Manager Ernesto Valverde said he wanted to see the new arrivals getting used to playing with the team and hoped for a better result for Saturday’s match.

Defender Gerard Pique will not play on Saturday as a precaution due to discomfort in his left thigh, Valverde said.

Agence France-Presse