Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is back in first-team training after nearly two months on the sidelines and could be fit in time to face Real Madrid after the international break. Messi, 28, has not played since suffering a knee injury in the win against Las Palmas in September.
Spanish daily AS said Messi took part in a practice match on 12 November and even scored in the game, although there has been no official confirmation of the Argentina captain's return from Barcelona. Messi has not joined up with the Argentina national team ahead of their World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Colombia in a bid to return to fitness and play in the first El Clasico of the season on 21 November.
Argentina's team doctor Homero de Agostino warned Barcelona against rushing Messi back to fitness earlier in the week, saying it could aggravate the forward's knee problem. "I doubt that Messi will be fit to play El Clasico," De Agostino was quoted as saying by ESPN.
"The coach 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."
Barcelona have insisted that Messi will not be rushed back, with the club's sporting director Robert Fernandez saying there was no date set for the return of the four-time World Player of the Year.
"What we want is that, when a player returns, he is in the best condition possible," he was reported as saying by ESPN. "In no moment has the club thought about a date. Nor the Clasico nor anything else – what we want is for him to return well."
Barcelona could also be without midfielder Ivan Rakitic for the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu after he suffered a calf injury in the Champions League victory over BATE Borisov on 4 November.