Sat, Apr 04, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Messi to play against Celta Vigo

EARLY GAME:Real Madrid play Granada tomorrow, with Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez expected to make a return from injury with a place on the bench

AFP, MADRID

Lionel Messi of Argentina gestures during their friendly against El Salvador at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, on Feb. 28.

Photo: AFP

Four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi has been passed fit to continue Barcelona’s title charge when they travel to RC Celta de Vigo tomorrow, hoping to avenge a shock defeat to Os Celestes earlier this season.

Messi missed both Argentina’s friendly wins over El Salvador and Ecuador in the past week due to a foot injury picked up in Barca’s crucial 2-1 victory over eternal rivals Real Madrid a fortnight ago.

However, he took part in a light training session on Thursday and the club confirmed that the inflamation in his foot had improved.

The trip to Celta Vigo begins an intense month for Barcelona, with seven league fixtures and a Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain to come in the next 28 days.

However, defender Gerard Pique welcomed the challenge of trying to win the treble for just the second time in the club’s history after failing to pick up any silverware last season.

“The most important part of the season is coming now,” the Spain international said. “There are a series of very hard games and the Champions League quarter-finals around the corner. We know how hard it will be and we need to be up to the task if we want to win titles.”

“We have the team to do it and we have shown how we have improved throughout the year, which gives us a lot of confidence,” he said.

“We have the experience of last year and we have to try and improve on that,” he added.

Barca will be without the injured Jordi Alba and suspended Javier Mascherano, but Sergio Busquets will be fit to take his place in the starting line-up for the first time in more than a month.

Real Madrid can close to within a point of the leaders when they face struggling Granada in tomorrow’s early game.

Los Blancos have only won one of their past four league games, but will be confident of a return to winning ways against a Granada side who have not won away from home since September last year.

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti will have a full compliment of midfielders to choose from for the first time in five months, as James Rodriguez should make his return from a broken bone in his foot.

The Colombian will probably have to settle for a place on the bench with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Isco keeping their places in the side who lost 2-1 at the Camp Nou last time out. Meanwhile Raphael Varane should replace the injured Pepe in defence.

Valencia will also be attempting to maintain an unlikely title challenge when they face Villarreal at home tomorrow.

Los Che have taken 25 points from a possible 30 to remain just eight points adrift of Barca and face both the Catalans and Madrid in the remaining 10 games of the season.

“We are very strong at home, we have 10 finals left and Sunday is the first of them,” captain Dani Parejo told the club’s Web site.

“It is a derby between two teams fighting for similar objectives,” Parejo said. “We are in third, whilst they aren’t in great form and need the win. It will be a good game between two sides that like to play good football with intensity.”

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