UEFA Champions League 2016/17: Lionel Messi to be fit for clash against Celtic
Lionel Messi was sorely missed in Barcelona’s 0-0 draw on Saturday, with the Blaugrana failing to breach a 9-man Malaga defence at the Camp Nou. Messi was forced to pull out at the last minute for their league fixture courtesy a stomach bug that had him vomiting but he is expected to be back for the game against Celtic.
The Argentine playmaker spent Friday night and Saturday morning sick and a decision was taken for him to skip the game against Malaga just hours before kick-off.
It was initially reported that he was still not in perfect condition, but the club was hoping that he would eventually be able to take the step that allows him to return to training on Monday morning.
More recent reports suggest that Messi has weathered the worst of the illness and has returned to training with his teammates on Monday, ahead of their Champions League clash against the Scottish champions at Celtic Park.
Messi’s illness seemed to come at a very poor time for the Catalans, with Luis Suarez also suspended for the game against Malaga having picked up his 5th yellow card of the season in their 2-1 victory over Sevilla.
Suarez, Alba to return; Iniesta and Umtiti to miss out
Suarez has also been in training and is expected to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup with Messi and Neymar, with Paco Alcacer having failed to impress since his big-money move from Valencia.
Luis Enrique is also expected to reintroduce Jordi Alba into the starting lineup. The left-back came off the bench at the weekend after recovering from a hamstring problem and should replace Lucas Digne in the team.
Gerard Pique also made his comeback against Malaga, playing the entire 90 minutes and coming through the game unscathed. He also showed no after-effects of the ankle injury that saw him sidelined for 3 weeks.
Jeremy Mathieu is expected to provide an experienced head at the back for Barcelona, with defender Samuel Umtiti still ruled out through injury.
The Blaugrana will also miss talisman Andres Iniesta, who is still rehabilitating from the knee injury he picked up against Valencia, with the initial assessment being that he would miss 6-8 weeks of action.
However, the good news is that Iniesta’s recovery is ahead of schedule, Luis Enrique revealed last week, and both he and Umtiti could return in time for the Clasico against Real Madrid on December 3rd. The 0-0 draw with Malaga saw Barcelona falter in their race for the league, falling 4 points behind Real Madrid.
Messi’s addition will provide a welcome boost to Barcelona fans who have been repeatedly greeted with news of injuries to key players this past month. The Catalan giants will head into their match with Celtic as the group leaders, currently leading Manchester City by 2 points.
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