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Trio fit for Barca return

Tito Vilanova's injury problems appear to be clearing up with injured stars Alexis Sanchez, Daniel Alves and Marc Bartra all nearing returns ahead of Barcelona's trip to Real Betis on Sunday.

Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba, who rested slight knocks for the Champions League game at home to Benfica, should also be available for the game at the Estadio Benito Villamarin, although talisman Lionel Messi remains a doubt after the bruised knee he suffered during the 0-0 draw.

Vilanova gave Barca's squad a free day on Friday, but Messi, Alves, Bartra, Sánchez and Iniesta decided to come in anyway and work on their fitness in the gym at Barca's Ciutat Esportiva. Their condition will be assessed again on Saturday morning, before Vilanova names his squad for the Primera Division leaders' flight to Andalucia.

A statement released via Barca's website on Thursday communicated the positive injury news.

"Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba both trained normally with the squad for the first time this week [on Monday and Tuesday they stayed in the gym)]," the statement read. "They were also joined by Alexis, Bartra and Dani Alves, who are all in the final stages of recovery from their respective injuries."

Alexis has not played for his club since twisting an ankle on international duty with Chile last month, Bartra strained an adductor muscle before last month's Champions League trip to Spartak Moscow, while Alves limped off with a hamstring problem against Levante a fortnight ago.

Winger Isaac Cuenca, 20, who has not featured at all this season as he recovers from a serious knee injury, is also nearing a comeback, according to local paper Mundo Deportivo. This leaves just Marca Muniesa and Eric Abidal as long-term absentees.

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