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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Barcelona great Andres Iniesta vows to be in 'top condition' for Vissel Kobe debut

Former Spain midfielder was last in action at the start of the month, but despite the short break, is aiming to take to the pitch on Sunday

Former Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta has said he will be ready to make his J-League debut for Vissel Kobe on Sunday after arriving in Japan on Wednesday.

Iniesta ended his 16-year association with boyhood club Barca this summer and chose to join Kobe on a three-year deal.

The 34-year-old midfielder last played a competitive match on July 1 when Spain were surprisingly defeated at the last-16 stage of the World Cup by tournament hosts Russia, after which Iniesta announced his international retirement.

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Despite the quick turnaround, Iniesta is hopeful he will be in contention to start Sunday's match against Shonan Bellmare. Kobe officials said Iniesta would join up with his new team mates for training on Friday before Sunday's match, Kyodo news agency reported.

"It was a long trip but I had been looking forward to coming to Japan. I'm excited to play with my Vissel teammates," Kyodo quoted Iniesta as saying after his arrival at Kansai airport, where he was greeted by 300 fans.

"I want to play as soon as possible. I'll get in top condition for Sunday, and I hope to show the fans great play."

Iniesta will link up with former Germany international Lukas Podolski at Kobe and will wear his familiar No 8 jersey.

He will try to help Kobe, currently sixth in the league after 15 games, win a first Japanese championship. The club's highest finish was seventh in 2016.

During his time at Barcelona, Iniesta won nine Primera Liga titles, four Uefa Champions League crowns and six Copa del Reys, before signing for Kobe in May. He also scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final and twice won the European Championships with Spain.