As if the season wasn’t going well enough with eight wins from their first eight fixtures, Barcelona have the benefit of being able to recall Lionel Messi to action this weekend.
BBC Sport have announced that, along with Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano, the Argentinian is fit to feature and will be among Gerardo Martino’s options come Saturday’s trip to Pamplona.
Barcelona's official Twitter posted a video of their talisman training on Friday:
There, La Blaugrana will take on Osasuna, currently sitting in La Liga’s relegation area and boasting one of the worst home defences in the division.
Needless to say, the fixture looked unfavourable enough for the hosts already, never mind the added threat of having to contend with the world’s best player.
Messi originally picked up his injury in late September, and Barcelona are fortunate enough to have seen the knock coincide with the international break, making his absence all the more unnoticeable over the last three weeks.
However, Martino will have been encouraged by the fact that he can rely on other stars to step up in the absence of his team’s talisman, Neymar and Alexis Sanchez being just a couple of those filling-in well of late.
Neymar, in particular, has impressed during the month of October, migrating to a more central attacking role with Messi not around and having what was undoubtedly his best performance in Barca colours yet against Real Valladolid, where he scored one and assisted another.
There is, of course, the question as to whether it’s worth risking Messi at all. His side take on a club who are currently set to fight against relegation and a Champions League tie against Milan, not to mention an El Clasico fixture with Real Madrid. All await in the next seven days.
However, what one must account for is match fitness. Heading into the aforementioned two matches without having played a decent chunk of recent playing time holds just as many, if not more, risks than fielding the pint-sized poacher against Osasuna.
If anything, a run out against minnow opposition is the ideal way for Messi to regain a stride in his fitness, re-acclimate to the demands of his trade and add to the 11-goal haul he's already bagged this term.
Plus, if there’s any player out there who’d simply want to play purely for the love of the sport, it also just so happens to be one of its best. No coincidences there.
The past few weeks have seen other Camp Nou figures given their chances to thrive under the Barcelona spotlight. That brief moment of pause comes to an end this Saturday, however, when Messi will once again be the one drawing the plaudits ahead of a massive week for Barcelona.
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