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Pique poised to return

Barcelona centre-half Gerard Pique could return to action in Wednesday's Champions League game at Celtic, after training with his team-mates at the Camp Nou on Monday morning.

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When Pique injured an ankle against Spartak Moscow in Barca's Group G opener on September 19 he was expected back within a few weeks, but has not played since. A return now appears imminent, although Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo reported this was more likely to happen at Real Mallorca in La Liga next Sunday.

Barca need Pique back as quickly as possible after Adriano Correia became the latest defender to join their injury list when suffering an adductor muscle injury during Saturday's 3-1 league win over Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou.

The versatile Brazilian international, who has played centre-half in the absence of Pique and Carles Puyol in recent weeks, now faces three weeks on the sidelines according to the club's medical staff.

Speaking after Saturday's game, Barca coach Tito Vilanova said that yet another defender falling to a muscle strain was "troubling" but he hoped to have his first choice central defensive pair available soon.

"We will see if there is a possibility for Pique and Puyol to join the team," Vilanova said. "It is possible that Pique will be fit for the match against Celtic."

Better news for Vilanova was the return of right-back Dani Alves, who confirmed his return to fitness after a month out with his own muscle problem in the win over the Galicians, a result which means Vilanova's Barca have taken 28 Primera Division points from the first 30 available, the best start in the club's history.

Should Pique not play on Wednesday, Marc Bartra, 21, or ex-Arsenal midfielder Alex Song will likely slot in alongside Javier Mascherano in the centre of Barcelona's defence at Celtic Park. A win for the Catalans would confirm their progression to the last 16 with two rounds still remaining.


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