Madrid: As well as putting Barcelona a step closer to winning La Liga, Saturday's 1-0 home win over Levante showed that defender Eric Abidal is fit enough to play a full match after making a remarkable recovery from a liver transplant.
The former France international played at centre back alongside Adriano, the first time the 33-year-old has completed 90 minutes in more than a year, and proved he is a viable option to partner Gerard Pique in the middle of defence in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first leg at Bayern Munich.
Abidal's experience, athleticism and heading ability could be crucial against Bayern's fearsome attacking force, which includes his former France team mate Franck Ribery. Adriano, who like Abidal normally plays at fullback, was deployed alongside Pique in this month's 1-1 quarter-final second leg draw at home to Paris St Germain and picked up a yellow card, meaning he is suspended for Tuesday's game.
The versatile Brazilian was drafted in following injuries to club captain Carles Puyol and Argentina international Javier Mascherano, who may be back for the return match against Bayern at the Nou Camp on May 1. "It's a very happy day for everyone," Barca's assistant coach Jordi Roura, standing in for Tito Vilanova, who is recovering from cancer treatment, told a news conference after the Levante game.
"Abidal completed a full match and he felt very good. "In footballing terms, I think he played at a very high level and he knew perfectly how to pace himself." Abidal is a huge favourite with the Barca fans and his return just before the climax of the Champions League raises the prospect of him lifting the coveted trophy at Wembley for the second time in three years.
Puyol stepped aside to allow Abidal, who had returned to the team after an initial operation to remove a tumour from his liver, to hoist the Cup in 2011 following Barca's 3-1 victory over Manchester United in London. "We will evaluate all the players over the next few days," Roura said. "Everyone who is in perfect physical shape has a chance of being in the starting 11 on Tuesday."
It seems certain Barca will have Lionel Messi back in the starting lineup to meet Bayern after he missed the Levante game. The Argentine World Player of the Year is racing to recover from a hamstring injury and returned to training this week but has yet to receive the all-clear from medical staff.