Rafinha Alcantara has given Barcelona a major injury boost after receiving medical clearance to return to action only days before the El Clasico at Real Madrid on Saturday [23 December].

The 24-year-old midfielder has been on the sidelines for more than eight months after suffering a serious knee injury during the La Liga victory over Granada on 2 April.

The Brazilian was forced to undergo an operation days later but he was expected to be back in time for the start of the new campaign after Barcelona originally ruled him out for only four months.

But his recovery didn't go as expected and earlier in October the versatile midfielder had to go under the knife again to address the issue.

Barcelona did not set a time frame on his recovery following the second operation but it was said that he won't be back until the beginning of next year.

Rafinha returned to training two weeks ago and has now been given the medical clearance only five days before the first El Clasico oin La Liga at Real Madrid.

"FC Barcelona player Rafinha was medically cleared by doctors on Monday (18 December)," the club confirmed through an official statement. "The FC Barcelona player suffered an injury in the game against Granada CF on April 2nd of this year, on Matchday 29 of the 2016/17 season. He was taken off 17 minutes into the game. After an arthroscopic procedure to fix the injury to his internal meniscus, the Brazilian midfielder has been working hard in order to be able to return to action."

It is still uncertain whether Valverde will give him a chance to feature against Real on Saturday given that the clash will come only before a Christmas break which could help Rafinha step up his fitness ahead of the crucial second half of the season.

Nevertheless, last week the Barcelona boss suggested that he won't risk Ousmane Dembele against Real despite the Frenchman having also been training with the rest of his teammates since last week.

Gerard Deulofeu, Samuel Umtiti and Paco Alcacer are certainly miss El Clasico with the later suffering a muscle injury during the first half of the Sunday's 4-0 victory over Deportivo la Coruna.

Valverde thus promoted four players from the second team - keeper Alberto Varo, centre-back Fali, left-back Moises Delgado and forward Choco Lozano - to first team training when his side returned to training on Friday to begin preparations for the trip to Real.

"FC Barcelona began a big week with a training session on Monday morning. In the run-up to El Clásico against Real Madrid (Saturday, 1pm CET), the first team took to the Ciutat Esportiva for their first workout of the week," the club informed.

"The recovery session featured all available first team players, as well as four Barça B players being put through the paces by coach Ernesto Valverde: Varo, Fali, Choco Lozano and Moisés."

The Barcelona players will have a day off on Tuesday [19 December] before returning to training on Wednesday [20 December] to step up the preparations for a Clasico which could be decisive in the race for the La Liga title, with Real currently 11 points behind in the table but with one game in hand.