Defender Eric Abidal is an experienced international with 66 France appearances. The injury-hit Bleus are short of the experience the 33-year-old could offer, short of the knowledge he'd have about the opponents, many of whom are team-mates at Barcelona.
Abidal will be at the game tonight as an invited spectator. Who wins and who loses (Spain haven't lost a competitive game at home for nine years) in a football game isn't important compared with what the Lyon-born former Monaco, Lille and Olympique Lyon defender has been through.
As Forrest Gump famously observed, life is a box of chocolates and you never know what you are going to get. The Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko put it in more highbrow fashion when he wrote: "Life is like a rainbow which also includes black."
That Abidal is alive to even attend a game isn't taken for granted, nor is the fact that he's fit enough. Abidal demonstrated that fitness last week by climbing 2,500 metre-high Pyrenean peaks freshly dusted by the first winter snows.
Abidal said that he found it very tough. It was the latest stage in his second comeback, the first comeback came after he was diagnosed with cancer of the liver in March 2011, just as he was playing the best football of his Barca career since he joined from Lyon in 2007 for 9 million euros.
The tumour was immediately removed, while the football world united in support. Barca fans applauded throughout the 22nd minute of matches (he wears 22) while footballers from Madrid to his former club Lyon wore 'Get well Abidal' t-shirts. He thought that he would never play again, but he did get well, remarkably so.
Abidal returned to the field six weeks later as a sub against Real Madrid to a huge Camp Nou ovation. It was three months ahead of medical prognosis and the Barca players gave his surgeon a standing ovation. Abidal then passed a last-minute fitness test to play in the biggest club game in football, the Champions League final, for the full 90 minutes of the victory against Manchester United.
Carles Puyol handed him the captain's armband to allow the exhausted Abidal to lift the European Cup in the London night. "Thanks to all my team-mates and all the staff, "he said. "You gave me strength."
It was redemption of sorts, for Abidal had been suspended for the 2009 Champions League final after receiving a red card against Chelsea in the semi-final. He'd also been suspended for the 2009 Copa del Rey final victory after another red.
Abidal's life continued as normal, but his outlook changed. He sold his fast cars and gave the proceeds to children's hospitals.
"I see life differently," he said. "Many things I thought were useful or important, now they are not. Therefore I have sold all my cars. When something happens to you as happened to me, then these cars are useless ... it's better to sell them and give money to associations and hospitals, use it to help children. I learned a lot from them. They gave me strength."
He would need all that strength. In March this year it was announced that he would need a liver transplant because of complications from the previous cancer operation. His career in football was again uncertain. Abidal had the operation in April, with an organ donated by his cousin. He was hospitalised for six weeks and the word was that he would have to retire.
A week later, doctors told him he could play football again if he so desired, though they said it could take up to a year to have a normal life again. The same doctors praised his character, adding that he'd not once complained. His Barcelona team-mates won Spain's Copa del Rey and covered the huge trophy with an Abidal shirt. Given the current defensive crisis at Camp Nou, they could do with him back.
As he worked hard on his recovery, Abidal flew to New York with his wife to see Pep Guardiola and his wife. 'Abi' and 'Pep' are friends and they were joined by another Manhattan resident, Thierry 'Titi' Henry. Abidal flourished as a player under Guardiola, the elegant, athletic full-back perfectly suited to his vision. All wished Abidal well, but they knew he had an arduous task ahead.
Abidal spent all last week in the clean air of the Vall d'Aran walking and climbing with a Barca physio, Emili Ricart. It is three hours from Barcelona, a city Abidal has already said he'll stay in when he retires from football because of the proximity to the mountains and the sea. Many foreign footballers do, from Michael Reiziger to Steve Archibald and Johan Cruyff. Eidur Gudjohnsen's family stayed in Barcelona too.
A Muslim, the chef in the tiny family hotel made sure he ate halal meat, providing enough energy for the strenuous walks as he conquered a different 2,500-metre peak each day from a base of 1,000 metres. The aim is to increase stamina, muscle and aerobic capacity.
"The pain and suffering has been worth it to play for Barcelona again," he said. "I have to work hard, it is difficult, but to get back to my level I have to go this route because otherwise I will not get there. Physically I'm suffering, but I need it. I have to be strong mentally, so you have more stamina, and I'll recover soon."
Abidal hopes to return to play for Barca this year, though a January or February date remains more likely.
Andy Mitten will be blogging for us on all matters in La Liga throughout the season. He contributes to FourFourTwo, the Manchester Evening News and GQ magazine amongst other publications.
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