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Mascherano, Busquets back for Barca

Barcelona's defensive injury issues are showing signs of easing with Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets both returning to full training ahead of Sunday’s La Liga trip to Villarreal.

Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano of Barcelona tackle Edin Dzeko of Manchester City.
The return of Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano will boost Barca's title hopes.

• Ledwith: Youngsters the key
• Tomas: La Liga not over yet

Mascherano suffered a calf problem during last weekend’s 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao, causing a further headache for Blaugrana coach Gerardo Martino -- who is already without sidelined central defensive pair Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol -- with left-back Jordi Alba also out.

Marc Bartra, 23, played the full 90 minutes against Athletic, but has also been suffering from hamstring problems recently, meaning Barcelona have no fully-fit centre-backs as they look to maintain pressure on La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.

Busquets, who was pressed into action at centre-half during the recent 1-0 loss to Granada, missed training earlier this week with an unconfirmed fitness issue adding to his side's defensive worries ahead of a tricky trip to El Madrigal.

However, both Mascherano and Busquets have made positive progress, and the club announced on Thursday morning that the duo were back in training with their teammates.

"Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano trained with the rest of the group this Thursday morning," the statement said.

"The midfielder from Badia has returned to working with the group after having undergone specific individual work, while the Argentine player had already returned to the session with his teammates on Wednesday."

Barca B centre-back Sergi Gomez has been training with the senior side this week but Martino does not appear to have much faith in the 22-year-old graduate of La Masia, having preferred to use either Busquets or Alex Song in defence all season when needed.

Barca are also without Brazil international Neymar for the remainder of the club season, with the 22-year-old captured by AS arriving at Barca's training ground on Wednesday with a brace around his injured left foot.

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