Messi ready for return to Barca starting line-up

Wed Jan 15, 2014 3:32pm EST
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BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino could put Lionel Messi back into the starting lineup for the King's Cup game against Getafe on Thursday as he continues to ease him back from injury.

The Argentine forward suffered a series of hamstring strains last year and Barca have tried to ensure he is not only fit, but strong enough to be a decisive influence in the key games towards the end of the season.

He was introduced as a substitute for the top-of-the-table clash against Atletico Madrid on Saturday which ended in a 0-0 draw.

Now, with Barca leading 4-0 from their home leg in the King's Cup Last 16 tie against Getafe, Martino believes it would be a good moment to give the four-times World Player of the Year a longer run-out.

"We have obviously talked it over and I have asked him how he feels," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"The situation is now different from last week as he has had a serious of solid training sessions. He is looking strong in training and now he has more possibilities to start because he has more possibilities to be able to finish the match," Martino added.

"It would not be wise to put Messi or any other player at risk and we don't think there is a risk. We are trying to create the situation so that when he starts that he is in top condition.

"In the last two games he has come in during the second half and he has looked strong. This is a good opportunity but we will decide if it is right for him to start."

Barca travel without the injured Andres Iniesta while Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets are rested and have remained behind in Catalonia.   Continued...

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after he scored a penalty against Valencia during their Spanish first division soccer match at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, February 3, 2013. REUTERS/Heino Kalis