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Messi back for Barca's home game against Elche

English.news.cn   2014-01-04 19:41:50            

MADRID, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- "All present and correct" could be the motto as FC Barcelona prepare to kick off 2014 with a home match against Elche.

It promises to be a hectic start to the year for the reigning Champions and BBVA Primera Liga leaders as the Elche game is followed by a Copa del Rey tie against Getafe in midweek ahead of their trip to face second place Atletico Madrid in the Vicente Calderon Stadium next weekend.

The good news for Barca coach Tata Martino is that he will once again be able to count on a full complement of players for what is an intense schedule.

Most important of all is that Leo Messi is once again fit and ready for action.

The Argentinean returned to Barcelona two days ago after being out of action for over six weeks with a hamstring injury. He has now completed two training sessions with his team-mates and a hat-trick in Friday' s practice game shows he is close to his best.

"I am really happy to have been able to return to action with my companions. I feel very good," posted the striker later on his official 'Weibo' site and he will probably be included in the squad for Sunday's match.

After a season hampered by a series of muscle injuries it is unlikely Martino will risk Messi in his starting 11 and may opt to give him minutes in the second half and against Getafe to help him build up fitness and also confidence ahead of the game in the Vicente Calderon.

Messi is not the only player who is available after injury as first choice goalkeeper, Victor Valdes is also back to fitness after missing over a month with a calf injury which he picked up while playing for Spain in November.

Valdes' return will see Jose Pinto, who performed admirably during his absence, step back to the subs' bench, although Pinto may well return in goal for the midweek cup match.

Finally Neymar will also be back in the side after the Brazilian was suspended for the 5-2 win in Getafe in the last game before the Christmas holidays. Barca hardly missed the Brazilian, or Messi for that matter, as a Pedro Rodriguez hat-trick saw them to a comfy victory after falling two goals behind.

Pedro is pressing to retain his place and will probably start alongside Alexis Sanchez and Neymar in attack, although Cesc Fabrigas also has a good chance of starting.

Barca will probably kick off in second place as their match takes place 24 hours after Atletico Madrid play in Malaga and Barca will need to match Atletico's result on the south coast of Spain in order to retain their leadership.

Elche ended the year with three straight league defeats to leave them dangerously close to the relegation zone and Barca are clear favorites, but Martino will insist they start the year with their concentration at maximum level in order to avoid any slip ups.

Editor: chengyang
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