After nearly two months spent rehabilitating his thigh injury, Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi will reportedly make his return to the pitch on Sunday against Elche.
The squad released an official statement on Thursday, and published a photo of Messi training alongside his Catalan teammates.
“Leo Messi landed in Barcelona this afternoon and went directly to the Ciutat Esportiva to meet up with his teammates and get fitted for new boots ahead of the team’s training session,” the statement read. “It’s been a month since the Argentinian player, who picked up an injury on November 29, trained on the pitch of Sant Joan Despí. Messi, who has yet to be declared match fit, took part in the team’s second training session of the day.”
Despite losing their first match of the campaign during the Argentinean’s five-match absence, the Catalans are resuming La Liga play after the winter break three points out of first place behind Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona still hold a one-goal advantage on differential, even after Los Rojiblancos 1-0 victory over Malaga on Saturday. Catalans manager Gerard Martino could further test Messi’s fitness in Wednesday’s King Cup clash against Getafe, just ahead of a pivotal match versus Atletico on Jan. 11.
According to The Guardian, Messi returned to Barcelona from his native land for training ahead of Sunday’s match. It’s unclear how much time will be allotted, or if he will start, but the 26-year-old should see his first game action since a 4-1 win over Betis in November.
"He definitely needed to rest physically because he had already suffered this [injury] and there was no other option than to stop playing," Fábregas said to Marca. "He had four or five injuries in a row in a muscle that he uses a lot in accelerating from a standstill, which is what sets him apart. He had to stop no matter what and he'll be like a bull when he is back."
Also in Messi’s time away, star summer signing Neymar emerged with three goals and an assist in four La Liga matches, and netted a hat trick in Barcelona’s 6-1 victory over Celtic in Champions League play.
Barcelona also announced that goalkeeper Victor Valdes was issued a clean bill of health and will be available on Sunday, though Dani Alves could be absent with a fever.