Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta is "optimistic" he will be ready to return to action in the Sunday's [17 December] visit of Deportivo La Coruna which will come only six days prior to the first El Clasico in La Liga against Real Madrid on 23 December.

The 33-year-old midfielder has been out of action since being forced off in the second half of the 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo on 2 December.

Barcelona said that Iniesta only suffered "muscle fatigue in his left calf" but the captain has since been unable to feature in the following two encounters against Sporting CP and Villarreal due to the blow.

But Iniesta has provided a positive update for manager Ernesto Valverde after claiming he should be back for Barcelona's last two games before the La Liga Christmas break.

"I feel good, more or less. It wasn't an injury more just discomfort. It was too early to play in the last game but I hope to be available for Sunday," Iniesta said during a press conference on Wednesday (13 December).

"We will return to training tomorrow and we will see the feelings [I have]. But today I am optimistic [to be available] for the weekend and for the following one [when Barcelona will visit Real Madrid]"

Valverde may thus give Iniesta some playing time against Deportivo on Sunday in order to have him 100% fit to start a week later in the first El Clasico in La Liga at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The upcoming clash between the two La Liga archenemies will arrive amid speculation claiming that Real are considering signing Neymar only months after the Brazilian left Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain.

Real president Florentino Perez himself hinted at that possibility last week with reports claiming that Los Blancos chief sees him as a long-term replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Iniesta however hopes Neymar will snub such a move after admitting that it would bother him to see his former teammate at Barcelona's main rival.

"Anything can happen in football. We've seen situations which seemed impossible and have then happened before," Iniesta said if he could envisage a Real side without Ronaldo but with Neymar next season.

"I would be indifferent [if Neymar moved to Madrid], maybe it would annoy me a little bit because he's a game-changer and he would strengthen a rival. But I'm not worried about it."

Meanwhile, Iniesta also gave his opinion in the ongoing debate regarding Lionel Messi and Ronaldo after last week the Real ace declared himself to be the greatest player of all-time.

"I don't know if they were exactly his words. Each person is free to their own opinions and feelings. A player at his level, with five Ballon d'Ors, obviously he is among the best. From there, we all have are own preferences. Mine is clear, I'd go with my teammate, with Leo, for all that he's represented and still represents," Iniesta added. "But everyone has their own tastes. The winners of these awards are always fair, I don't think it's unfair that Ronaldo's won five. They're voted for. After that, every has their own preferences."