For weeks now, forward Lionel Messi’s return from a serious knee injury was supposed to perfectly correlate with Barcelona’s first Clasico with fierce rivals Real Madrid on Saturday. With the Catalans just three points ahead of Los Blancos for first place on La Liga table, the timing seemed almost magical and per chance too good to be true for supporters hungry to defeat Madrid.
But it appears the 28-year-old Ballon d'Or winner will live up to Catalans supporters’ hopes, even in the face of a doctor’s advice.
Sidelined with a sprained internal collateral ligament in his left knee since Sept. 26, Messi reportedly returned to training full time in preparation for the Madrid tie, according to BBC. However, the report also points out that Spanish media believe Messi could be available on the sidelines but might not start against Los Blancos.
The decision to play at all will undoubtedly rest on Messi and Barcelona manager Luis Enrique, and both may be heeding the words or Argentina team doctor Homero De Agostino.
Last week, Messi’s international squad doctor said he could aggravate the injury or be ineffective.
"I doubt that Messi will be fit to play El Clasico," De Agostino said to Cadena SER Catalonia according to ESPNFC. "The coach [Luis Enrique] cannot trust in somebody who has just recovered.
"The problem is when the player hits the ball with his instep, which reproduces the mechanism of the injury. I don't believe the problem is physical, but rather football. Although it is Messi, he will need to get his rhythm back with the football."
Messi did only come back to training part time last week, though it did put him back on the initial recovery schedule that projected a return to the pitch in six-to-eight weeks. He’s also reportedly completed a recover program instituted by Argentina physiotherapists Luis Garcia and Marcelo d’Andrea just last week.
However, Enrique might not need to exercise caution with his superstar considering the incredible play of forwards Neymar and Luis Suarez. Together they’ve scored 11 goals in 11 La Liga matches, and the Catalans have largely coasted across the domestic and Champions League fronts.
Argentina face Colombia in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night. Messi did not make the trip to Barranquilla. Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez are also unavailable for Argentina.