Lionel Messi has returned to training with Barcelona but has not yet been given the medical all-clear to play again.
Messi has not played competitively for almost three months after accepting that he needed a proper period of rest and recovery after suffering his third thigh muscle injury of the season at Real Betis in early October.
Having spent much of that period in his native Argentina, he returned to Catalonia to rejoin his teammates on Thursday, but a Barca statement released that evening suggested he will not be risked in Sunday’s La Liga game at home to Elche.
“Leo Messi landed in Barcelona this afternoon and went directly to the Ciutat Esportiva to meet up with his teammates and get fitted for new boots ahead of the team’s training session,” the statement said.
“Messi, who has yet to be declared match fit, took part in the team’s second training session of the day.”
Barcelona’s star player could now return as a substitute at home to Getafe in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday before starting the huge top-of-the-table game at Atletico Madrid three days later.
The news on Victor Valdes was even more positive, with the goalkeeper being given the green light to play again as he came through his first full training sessions of 2014 with no problems.
Valdes has not featured since picking up a calf injury in Spain’s 1-0 friendly defeat in South Africa in November, but should now return to the starting lineup on Sunday.
“Today is full of good news for FC Barcelona,” another club statement said. “After this afternoon’s training session, Victor Valdes was given the green light to return to competitive football. Therefore, he’s available for selection for this Sunday’s match against Elche.”
Barca coach Gerardo Martino's other selection concern ahead of the weekend is over Brazil right-back Dani Alves, who returned from his winter break with a fever and missed both Thursday's training sessions.