Tuesday, January 7
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi is set to return from a two-month injury layoff after being cleared by Barcelona team doctors and included in the squad for the Copa del Rey match against Getafe on Wednesday.
Messi hasn't played since tearing his left hamstring on Nov. 10, his fourth leg injury last year. He returned to training with Barcelona last week after recovering in Argentina.
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said Tuesday that Messi "feels fine" but didn't reveal if the club's all-time leading scorer will start or stay on the bench.
"Messi rehabbed well and has trained like the rest of the team," Martino said. "Maybe he lacks some playing time, but with Leo I don't think that will be a problem.
"Messi gives us all a boost of confidence. With him at our side, we all feel more secure."
Martino said that if Messi plays he hopes he can repeat his remarkable goal against Getafe in 2007, when he dribbled from his own half, slaloming by a series of defenders, to net arguably his greatest goal.
Barcelona lost its only two games of the season without Messi, but it has managed to hold onto a share of the Spanish league lead with Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona hosts Getafe in the first leg of the round of 16 before traveling to Atletico on Saturday in one of the most highly anticipated league matches of the season.
In Messi's absence, Pedro Rodriguez, Neymar and, most recently, Alexis Sanchez have picked up the scoring slack. Pedro leads the team with 15 goals in all competitions this season, one more than Messi.
Martino left Xavi Hernandez, Dani Alves and Marc Bartra off his squad for the Getafe match. He also confirmed that backup goalkeeper Jose Pinto will continue to start in the Copa del Rey, as he had under prior coaches Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova.