Barcelona coach Luis Enrique says the week’s great news is that Lionel Messi is back to full fitness and is set to make his comeback from a groin injury against Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.
Messi has been sidelined since hurting his groin for a second time this season in September’s draw with Atletico Madrid.
He missed the wins over Sporting Gijon and Borussia Monchengladbach and the defeat to Celta Vigo, but returned to training several days ago and is set to be handed some minutes ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Manchester City.
France defender Samuel Umtiti, who injured his knee in training in September, is also available again and Enrique says both players could play when La Liga resumes after the international break this weekend.
“The great news is that players are coming back [from knocks], such as Samuel Umtiti and Leo,” he told a news conference on Friday. “Messi has been with the team since Wednesday now. He came back [to training] looking good, at a good level.
“When you come back from an injury you need minutes, in both training and in games. I’ll speak to him about [Depor on Saturday], but in principle he’s ready to play, as is Samuel Umtiti.”
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Despite the 4-3 loss to Celta without Messi two weeks ago, Enrique said that the 29-year-old’s absence does not have a negative effect on the dressing room.
He acknowledged it can be difficult to deal with the absence of your best players on the pitch, but was adamant the challenge of doing well without them is an attractive one.
“When a player is injured he’s still around, relating to his teammates,” the Barca boss added. “Any injury is important and if you’re talking about, in my opinion, the best player in history, anyone would notice his absence and it makes things difficult.
“But the team’s challenge is to overcome that, as we did last season, too. So the situation is still the same, he’s still around, just not taking part, so in that sense, no [his absence doesn’t affect the dressing room].”
As well as Messi and Umtiti, Luis Suarez will also be available for Depor on Saturday. There were reports the Uruguayan was carrying a knock, but Enrique dismissed any fears over the striker’s health.
“Luis Suarez is available, like everyone else,” he explained, “he didn’t say he’s injured to me when I spoke with him. Yes, players have to make transatlantic flights and have to recover, but he looks good, he’s trained well and he is in condition to play.”
However, Jasper Cillessen, Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba will be missing, although it’s hoped the latter two will be back in time for Manchester City next week.