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Fabregas: Messi return crucial for Barca

Cesc Fabregas says having Lionel Messi back fit and rested in the new year could be an ideal situation for Barcelona.

• Tomas: Midseason review

Messi has not played since early October, and has spent the last two months back home in Argentina recovering from the string of thigh muscle issues which affected his start to the 2013-14 season. He is now expected to return to Catalonia in the coming days, and be ready to return for Barca’s first game of the new year -- at home to Elche at the Camp Nou on Jan. 5.

Fabregas told AS that the extended break is likely to be of benefit to both Messi and the team when the big games come next Spring.

"He will be in good shape for the most important moment of the season," the ex-Arsenal man said. "That was already said when the injury happened."

Messi and fellow recent absentees Xavi Hernandez and Victor Valdes should all then be in top shape for Barca’s trip to current co-leaders Atletico Madrid on Jan. 11, in a game being billed by many as a potential title decider.

Fabregas admitted a team which won that Estadio Vicente Calderon game would get a big lift, while remembering that Real Madrid, currently five points adrift in third, should not be ruled out of the running just yet.

"That will not decide La Liga, but whoever wins will get a huge confidence boost," he said. "Whatever happens Atletico are, alongside Madrid and ourselves, big favourites to win La Liga."

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