Saviola back in Barca squad to face Valencia

September 23, 2006

MADRID, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Argentina striker Javier Saviola has made the Barcelona squad for the first time this season for the Primera Liga clash with Valencia in the Nou Camp on Sunday.

'He is training well and has always been ready to step in. He deserves it,' Barca coach Frank Rijkaard told a news conference on Saturday.

'On this occasion Santi Ezquerro is injured and we always have to keep in mind the Champions League next week.'

The European and Spanish champions made it clear that Saviola was surplus to requirements after he returned from a loan spell at Sevilla last season.

The 24-year-old international has one year left on his contract but turned down offers from other clubs to stay and fight for his place.

Saviola joined Barca from River Plate for $28 million on a six-year contract in 2001, but dropped down the pecking order under Rijkaard.

He spent the 2004-5 season on loan at Monaco and last year with the UEFA Cup winners.

He will have to compete with Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o and Iceland's Eidur Gudjohnsen for a place in the starting lineup.

Rijkaard has left out Brazilians Thiago Motta and Silvinho and French defender Lilian Thuram.

Barca travel to face Werder Bremen in Champions League Group A on Wednesday.