No new faces as Barcelona prepare to return to work

10:28, July 18, 2011      

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Spanish and European champions FC Barcelona will have no new faces on show when they begin pre-season training on Monday.

Coach Pep Guardiola will begin work with just 18 players, due partly to South American stars, Dani Alves, Adriano, Javier Mascherano, Gabi Milito and Leo Messi being away on Copa America duty.

The three Argentineans will join up with their Barca teammates before the Brazilians following their exit from the Copa America on penalties against Uruguay this Saturday night, but all will first be allowed holidays before returning to the Barca squad.

The standout factor of this summer is that while Real Madrid have been active in the transfer market, making six new singings to date, Barcelona have so far failed to bring in any new players.

The club has worked all summer to close the signing of Chile winger Alexis Sanchez from Italian side Udinese and midfielder Cesc Fabrigas from Arsenal, but negotiations continue to drag on.

Cesc's on-off move has turned into the long-running saga of the summer, as it was last year, as Barcelona and Arsenal struggle to reach an agreement on a transfer fee for the Spain international, who has made little secret of his desire to return to his home-town club after eight years in England.

Arsenal return from their tour of the Far East this week and that could speed up negotiations amid rumors that Fabrigas has his favorite number 4 shirt waiting for him in Barcelona for when the move is finally completed.

Negotiations for Alexis have also dragged on for longer that expected with one Spanish paper even announcing a full agreement had been reached midway through last week.

The two clubs are close to each other in their valuation of the player and everything points to that move being sealed for a transfer fee in the region of 37 million euros.

Barcelona may also look to strengthen their defense with the arrival of either a full back or a central defender before the transfer market closes at the end of the month.

Meanwhile the club will be putting faith in youngsters Thiago Alcantara and Andreu Fontas, who have been promoted from their B-team.

Barcelona's players have a busy summer awaiting them with their first friendly game away in Croatia to Hadjuk Split on July 23.

The Catalans then travel to Germany to play International Porto Alegre three days later before flying for a week's tour of the United States, where they will play matches in Washington DC, Miami and Dallas.

August 10 sees a round of international matches, before the players return to prepare for the first competitive games of the season when they compete for the Spanish Supercup on August 14 and 17 against bitter rivals Real Madrid.

The BBVA Primera Liga season kicks off on August 21 when Barcelona visit Malaga.

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