Cesc Fabregas says Lionel Messi is working well in training and should be ready to start Barcelona's Champions League semi-final first leg at Bayern Munich next Tuesday.
Fabregas started in Messi's false nine role in Barca's quarter-final second leg at home to Paris Saint-Germain, and struggled to have an impact on the game. The Argentine entered from the bench in the second half, despite not being 100% fit, and almost immediately helped orchestrate the equaliser which saw the Catalan side through on away goals.
The ex-Arsenal man told Radio station RAC 1 that he both hoped and expected his team-mate to be fit for next week's game, as the PSG performance had demonstrated how Barca missed him when he was not there.
"[Messi] is working well," Fabregas said. "He is a player with a lot of character and personality and he will be ready for the game. We feel more secure on the pitch when he is there, as the game against PSG showed. What he gives us nobody else can."
Fabregas said he would take a Barcelona against Real Madrid Champions League final right now if he was offered it, despite the often fraught relationship between the two La Liga giants.
"I would sign up for a Real Madrid-Barcelona final," he said. "It would be a very important game in the history of football. But first we must think about the semi-final against Bayern. It will be really tough. Colossal."
With Bayern versus Barca also being billed as the meeting of Josep Guardiola's past and future sides, Fabregas was asked how he felt now about the coach, with whom he did not always see eye to eye during their year together at the Camp Nou.
"Guardiola is a person who I admire," he said. "He was the idol of my childhood. I always tried to copy what he did on the pitch. Last season everything did not always go well with him, but the truth is he, with Tito [Vilanova], made an effort so that I could return to Barcelona."
Meanwhile, Fabregas' team-mate Andres Iniesta says the Primera Division title remains the most important trophy for Barcelona this season.
Barca, currently 13 points clear of Madrid in the table, need just three wins from their last seven games to regain the title which Jose Mourinho's side won last year.
The blaugrana playmaker said finishing that job would give him more satisfaction than any possible European success.
"I have always said it, the league title is the most important for me," Iniesta said. "It is the one you get most pleasure from because it is the result of your daily work, each week, for a full year. But of course the Champions League has its prestige, and a different attraction."
Jupp Heynckes' powerful Bayern side would pose a stiff test for Barca over the two semi-final legs, Iniesta said.
"Bayern have been doing very well for a few years," he said. "They won their league well in advance and comprehensively, and are in the final of their cup. They have a great team. They are Bayern, a historic club, a myth in football. It will be as difficult for us as for them."
But if Barca played to their potential they would reach the final, said the midfielder from La Mancha.
"We believe fully that, if we play as well we should ourselves, we can make it to the final," Iniesta said. "We have a good chance."