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 Posted by Dermot Corrigan
Jan 2, 2014

Iniesta delighted by Messi's return

Andres Iniesta has said Lionel Messi's return after two months out is "great news" for Barcelona, predicting that he will soon be "intimidating" opponents again.

Messi wants end to fitness woes
• Ledwith: Barcelona's key dates for 2014

Messi, who last played in early October, spent the last two months of 2013 in his native Argentina as he recovered from the thigh muscle problems that plagued him for most of last year.

He flew back into Barcelona on Wednesday and has reportedly now fully recovered from the muscle problems.

But with Barcelona unwilling to take any risks over their star man, he could miss Sunday's La Liga game with Elche at the Camp Nou and instead make his return as a substitute against Getafe in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday before starting at Atletico Madrid three days later.

Iniesta told Thursday's press conference at the Camp Nou that it remained to be seen whether Messi would be able to slot straight back in at top form.

"Messi has arrived, we will see when he returns to training if he will be as normal or needs to come in bit by bit," he explained. "We all know how important Leo is, on the level of numbers, quality and how he intimidates opponents.

"It is great news. We hope he feels confident, that he has no more problems, and that he can perform as he always has -- as the number one.

"The results are good, we have done well, but with them [the injured players] back we are even stronger. This new year we are recovering people who are very important for the team. It is great news that Leo is back… we are at full strength now."

Neymar, Alex Song, Alexis Sanchez and Javier Mascherano were also back in Catalonia to train on Thursday, while Victor Valdes, Xavi Hernandez and Ibrahim Afellay are all now fit and available for selection.

However, Dani Alves has flu and missed what would have been his first training session of 2014, making him a doubt for Sunday's game.

A Barca club statement gave details of the morning's workout, the first of two scheduled.

"The players that live outside Spain were back in training this morning," it said. "FC Barcelona started 2014 with 20 players, with Neymar, Song, Alexis and Mascherano back alongside their colleagues. They were joined by the players that had already trained at the end of 2013.

"Tata Martino therefore has practically all of his squad together as he prepares for Sunday's game at the Camp Nou against Elche. As planned, Leo Messi will be returning to the club on Thursday evening, when there is a second session scheduled for 19.00."

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