The Miniestadi was the venue for a very special training session. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

As is the tradition before Their Majesties the Three Kings of the Orient arrive in Barcelona bearing gifts for local children, the Barça first team offered their fans their own gift on Monday morning in the form of an open doors training session. And as usual, the Miniestadi terraces were packed, with hundreds of children among the 11,134 spectators that came to watch the team get back to work after a disappointing result at Real Sociedad the night before.

Unfortunately for them, they were unable to see any of Leo Messi, Rafinha or Jérémy Mathieu. The Medical Services announced today that Messi has gone down with gastroenteritis and Rafinha has otitis in his ear. Tests should provide further details as to how long these two players are likely to be out of action. Mathieu, meanwhile, exercised in isolation.

Recovery from Anoeta

Dressed in the new lilac training strip, the players were welcomed by rapturous applause onto the Miniestadi field shortly after 11.00am (CET). Following a few laps of the pitch, they proceeded with their usual warm-up drills.

They were then divided into two groups. Those that started in Anoeta did post-match recovery exercises, while the others completed a series of others activities before playing a 5-a-side match on a downsized pitch. Neymar (5), Alves, Piqué (2), Adriano, Bartra (3) and Rakitic all scored in a game won by the side in yellow bibs. And it was all keenly watched by the young crowd with almost the same intensity as they would a real match.

Following an hour-long workout, the Barça anthem played once again and the players kicked the match balls into the stands, after which they spent a good while chatting to the fans, signing autographs, handing out gifts and posing for photographs – while also making sure that they gave special attention to a group of disabled fans.

The training session over, the first team then started preparing for their afternoon visit to children in local hospitals, after which they will be able to go home and start preparing to celebrate King’s Day with their own families. January 6 will be a holiday for the whole squad.

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