Martin Montoya is in illustrious company tonight as he prepares for Southampton's visit to the Amex on Saturday.

Spain and Barcelona legends Gerard Pique and Xavi are team-mates, along with Stoke's Bojan Krkic, as Catalonia host Venezuela in an international friendly at the Estadi Montilivi in Girona.

The Albion defender is also on the same side as Saints midfielder and former Barca colleague Oriol Romeu (below right) before the role change to rivals.

The Argus: Pique, 32, and 39-year-old Xavi have both come out of international retirement to face the country that toppled Lionel Messi's Argentina on Friday evening.

Other stars of La Liga will not be there. Real Valladolid, Huesca and Rayo Vallecano refused to release their players.

The clubs insist it is because they are fighting relegation, rather than for political reasons as tensions mount between the autonomous region in the north-east of the country and the Madrid government following an illegal referendum on independence in October 2017.

The Catalan team is not recognised by UEFA or FIFA. Montoya's participation in the fixture coincides with the 27-year-old summer signing from Valencia firmly establishing himself as Albion's first choice right-back at the expense of fellow Catalan and veteran club captain Bruno.

That became more transparent when Montoya, not Bruno, played in the dramatic FA Cup quarter-final win at Millwall.

Bruno had led the side through every previous round, but manager Chris Hughton went with his strongest possible line-up at The Den.

Montoya consolidated his position with one of his most impressive performances to date.

He kept Wilfried Zaha quiet in the 2-1 victory against arch rivals Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, apart from one occasion when he was left exposed and was booked for grabbing the winger.

The Argus: "I think I played very well," Montoya said. "There were not many chances for Zaha to dribble, to score. He is a big player."

Albion team-mate Bernardo, playing the role of interpreter, chipped in with a more detailed explanation.

"Every time we have to deal with a special player - and Zaha for sure is a special player - you need to maximise the protection and minimise his pace," the Brazilian left-back said.

"That was planned. We were always trying to have two or three players around him, because one against one you can be a really good defender but sometimes it's not enough."

Montoya is accustomed to tackling high class opposition. The best? "For me Neymar," he said. "When I played in Valencia against Barcelona, he was the most difficult player to mark, always dribbling, very quick.

"In the Premier League, Hazard is the best. There are rumours about him and (Real) Madrid. He is a very good player."

Montoya's growth in the Albion defence has gone hand-in-hand with the improvement in his grasp of the language.

He has English lessons at home twice a week. The father-of-two, aided by the Spanish speakers in the dressing room, feels more at home now.

He said: "I'm very happy. The first two months were different to Spain, but I have five or six players that help me and support me.

"I like the Premier League. It's different to La Liga but I like it because every game is unpredictable. It's faster than La Liga.

"I have a wife and two boys, four and ten months.

"Now it's better. The first two months were very difficult for me and my family. The language was the first problem, to adapt.

"Now it's getting better. My wife's English is getting better and me the same.

"She looks after the children. I am on the Brighton pier every week! My oldest son likes it. I like Brighton."

The Argus: Montoya (above) has some experience of being towards the wrong end of the table. A return to Wembley - where he played in a friendly for Barcelona against Spurs - beckons in the semi-finals of the FA Cup against Manchester City but he is more concerned about Premier League survival and some significant home games.

He said: "Three years ago I had six months at Betis on loan and the team was like Brighton now.

"We stayed in La Liga. We want to stay in the Premier League. We are a good team, I have good team-mates.

"It's more important to win against Southampton, against Cardiff, against Newcastle, than the FA Cup for me and I think for the club."