Abidal aiming to return after liver transplant


PARIS (AP) - Barcelona defender Eric Abidal expects to return to the pitch this year as his recovery from a liver transplant continues to go well.

"I have started working in the gym and I feel fine. I'm progressing and let's see if I can play before December," the 32-year-old Abidal said Saturday after making the honorary kickoff in Barcelona's friendly at PSG.

"I'm better than three months ago. I am sticking to the program the doctors have given me and the truth is that I feel well. I can travel, enjoy football, the team and the atmosphere."

Abidal underwent the transplant in April. Previously, the France international had a liver tumor removed in March 2011.

Barcelona, which had defender Carles Puyol back after recovering from knee surgery in May, won on penalties following a 2-2 draw in regular time.

Barcelona has yet to make any big offseason signing but may rely on Abidal's return as it tries to unseat Spanish champion Real Madrid this season.

"(Abidal) is very important for us," Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova said. "It makes all the players very happy to see how he is coming along. It is comforting."

Abidal joined Barcelona from Lyon in 2007 and has helped the club win two Champions League titles and three Spanish league crowns.

Barcelona next plays Manchester United in a friendly on Wednesday.

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