By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona have announced they will visit Japan as part of their preparations for next season, facing Premier League Chelsea in July as well as former captain Andres Iniesta’s side Vissel Kobe, who play in the Japanese top flight.
The La Liga leaders will meet Chelsea on July 23 at Saitama Stadium in Tokyo before travelling to Kobe on July 27 for the game against Vissel, where they will play against Iniesta and fellow former Barca players David Villa and Sergi Samper.
Both friendlies are being organised by Barca’s main sponsor Rakuten, the Japanese retailer.
Barca have spent their last two pre-seasons in the United States competing in the International Champions Cup and have not visited Asia for pre-season since 2013, when they played in Thailand and Malaysia.
They have not played in Japan since winning the 2015 Club World Cup, beating River Plate 3-0 in Yokohama.
The Catalans are nine points clear at the top of La Liga with six games to go and have reached the Copa del Rey final as well as the semi-finals of the Champions League, where they will face Liverpool.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)