Javier Mascherano
Barcelona's Javier Mascherano is expected to captain Argentina against Colombia on 17 NovemberReuters

Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano is expected to recover from a knock in time for Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Colombia. The 31-year-old, who plays as a defender for the Catalan giants, was reported to have suffered a muscle spasm in Argentina's 1-1 draw with Brazil in Buenos Aires on 14 November.

According to Argentine newspaper Ole, there were fears that Mascherano would be forced to sit out of Barcelona's hotly-anticipated clash with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on 21 November. However, Catalan daily Sport said Mascherano trained normally after the Brazil match and is likely to start for Argentina against Colombia on 17 November.

The news is a boost for Argentina boss Tata Martino, who is without the injured attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez for the trip to Barranquilla. Martino is under pressure to deliver a victory, with his side sitting ninth in the 10-team qualifying group after two draws and a defeat in their three matches.

The top four sides in the group qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the fifth-placed team heading into a play-off.

Messi winning fitness battle

Meanwhile, Barcelona defender Adriano has backed Messi to return to fitness and play a part in the first El Clasico of the season.

The Argentina captain has not played since suffering a knee injury in the win against Las Palmas in September. "He's recovering very well, doing everything to get to the game and to have him in the team changes a lot," Adriano told Mundo Deportivo.

Lionel Messi
Barcelona star Lionel Messi has been sidelined for almost two months with a knee injuryReuters

"There's a difference when he plays or doesn't, but in his absence we've managed to come together and move forward in matches. Every day he's been the Leo we're accustomed to: laughing, joking, and doing things with confidence. Would I put money on him playing in El Clasico? Hopefully, yes," the defender said.

Luis Enrique's Barcelona top the La Liga table by three points ahead of arch rivals Real Madrid.