After splitting their last two matches without him, Barcelona are targeting an El Clasico return date for injured superstar striker Lionel Messi. According to, the Catalans are hopeful the 28-year-old Argentine talisman can come back from a sprained left knee in time for Nov. 22’s critical matchup with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Messi went down in Barcelona’s 2-1 victory over Las Palmas on Sept. 26, and he was originally diagnosed with damage to his internal collateral ligament with an estimated recovery of seven-to-eight weeks without surgery.

Messi’s reportedly used crutches for the last week with his leg “immobilized,” but on Monday he got rid of the crutches. He is now working with team physiotherapist Roger Girones for the next two weeks, and could begin running in a month before re-entering training.

The possibility of rejoining Argentina for their international slate has been floated, but neither Argentina nor Barcelona will rush Messi back before he’s ready.

Without Messi the Catalans have posted mixed results, and his presence will be required in the first El Clasico against heated rival Real Madrid. Neymar struck a penalty in the 74th minute but Barcelona couldn’t completely a comeback against Sevilla and fell 2-1 in the first match without Messi.

The loss dropped Barcelona to fourth on La Liga table, but they are only one point back of first behind Villarreal.

But Luis Enrique’s side responded with a 2-1 Champions League group win over Bayer Leverkusen with Luis Suarez and Sergi Roberto scoring goals two minutes apart in the final 10 minutes of play.

Barcelona have six more matches before Messi’s expected return, including two meetings with Belarusian side BATE in Champions League action and a chance to upend Villarreal’s hot start to potentially reclaim La Liga lead on Nov. 11 at Nou Camp.

Appearing in nine matches across all competitions, Messi’s scored six goals and assisted on two others this season.