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Casillas set to return by end of March

Iker Casillas says he is near "the end of the tunnel" of his recovery from a broken bone in his left hand, and looks set to be ready for a return to the Real Madrid goal in two weeks' time.

• Blog: Battle for No.1 spot heats up

The Madrid captain suffered the injury in a challenge with team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa during their side's Copa del Rey quarter-final game at Valencia on January 23, and it was initially thought the Spain captain faced three months on the sidelines.

However, the recovery from the operation, in which two screws were inserted into his hand, has gone quicker than expected. AS reported on Thursday that he could be ready to face Real Zaragoza away in La Liga on March 30.

Casillas' return will give coach Jose Mourinho a decision to make as Diego Lopez, signed from Sevilla for €3 million in January, has impressed recently. Lopez had looked shaky on occasion, and was at fault for goals conceded against Deportivo La Coruna and Barcelona in La Liga, but was outstanding in Madrid's Champions League win at Manchester United in early March.

On Wednesday 'San Iker' published videos of himself training and saving shots with his left hand on Facebook, entitled '47 days later'. He also uploaded an image of a man walking out of a train tunnel to his Instagram account.

"Thanks for all the messages of support that you have been sending me during these weeks," the Facebook message said. "The end of the tunnel is near."

Despite the quick return Casillas is not expected to be named in Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque's squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Finland [in Gijon on March 22] and France [in Paris on March 26]. Barcelona's Victor Valdes should continue between the posts for La Roja, in two games which are key to their chances of qualifying directly for next year's finals in Brazil.

With Madrid 13 points behind Barcelona in the Primera Division table, Mourinho's next big target looks like the Champions League quarter-finals scheduled for April 2 and 3.

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