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Barcelona's Spain crop on cusp of near-perfect year

sports Updated: May 27, 2011 23:53 IST
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For the eight Spain internationals in Barcelona's probable starting 11 for Saturday's Champions League final, victory over Manchester United would put a gilt edge on an already spectacularly successful year.

Goalkeeper Victor Valdes, defenders Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, midfielders Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta and forwards Pedro and David Villa — the only one of the group who is not a product of Barca's youth school — came away from last year's World Cup in South Africa with winners medals.

They have since added the Spanish Super Cup and the Spanish league title, the club's third in a row, and narrowly missed out on a King's Cup triumph when they were beaten 1-0 in the final by great rivals Real Madrid.

At only 22, Busquets has already won more titles than most professionals dream of — 10 in three seasons including the 2009 Champions League — and has a chance at Euro 2012 with defending champions Spain to win the only major title that eludes him.

Playmaker Xavi, who turned 31 in January, is the creative engine at the heart of the Spain and Barca teams and preventing him from exerting his customary control will be key to United's chances of success on Saturday.

Together with Iniesta, he was on a shortlist of three for this year's World Player of the Year award that went to club team mate Lionel Messi for a second consecutive year.

One of the reasons for the recent success of Spain and Barca is the close relationship between the players who learned their trade in the Catalan club's famed "La Masia" youth school, which also produced current coach Pep Guardiola, Xavi said.