Barca rotation pays off ahead of Arsenal clash

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 Saturday.

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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