Lionel Messi could make his re­turn af­ter 3-week lay­off

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Lionel Messi is ready to make his re­turn for Barcelona. Prob­a­bly.

The Ar­gentina for­ward has been out for three weeks with a right groin strain, but Barcelona coach Luis En­rique said yes­ter­day that Messi could play against De­portivo La Coruna at Camp Nou to­day.

“I never give clues to op­pos­ing coaches,” said Luis En­rique, who will an­nounce his squad on the day of the match.

“In the case of Leo, he has been train­ing with us since Wed­nes­day,” the coach said. “It’s clear that since he is com­ing back from in­jury he needs min­utes both in train­ing and in games. To­mor­row I will talk with him, but he is avail­able.”

Af­ter the match against De­portivo, Barcelona will host Manch­ester City in the Cham­pi­ons League — a game in which the Span­ish team will face for­mer coach Pep Guardi­ola.

Barcelona has only won one of three league matches since Messi went down in the sec­ond half against Atletico Madrid on Sept. 21. Atletico ral­lied to draw 1-1, Barcelona routed Sport­ing Gi­jon 50 and lost at Celta Vigo 4-3 with Messi out.

Those stum­bles left Barcelona in fourth place, two points be­hind lead­ers Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, be­fore last week’s in­ter­na­tional break. Atletico, which leads the league on goal dif­fer­ence, will next face Granada. Madrid vis­its Real Betis.

De­portivo has yet to win away from home this sea­son, but the Gali­cian side has man­aged the im­pres­sive feat of earn­ing a pair of 22 draws in its last two league vis­its to Barcelona.

Lu­cas Perez, now at Arse­nal, scored for De­portivo in both of those matches to spark come­backs from two goals down.

With Perez gone, De­portivo may turn to new sign­ing Ryan Ba­bel to spark its lethar­gic at­tack. The for­mer Liver­pool player scored De­portivo’s late win­ner in its last match.

“I think De­portivo got ex­tremely lucky in the last two games here,” Luis En­rique said, in­sist­ing he didn’t want his play­ers look­ing to­ward the match against City.

“There is only one match for us, the one against De­portivo,” he added. “We want to win to re­cover points quickly. Think­ing about a match that is com­ing next week is a mis­take.”

Barcelona, Madrid draw 3rd-tier teams to open Copa del Rey

Barcelona and Real Madrid will both face third-tier op­po­nents in the Copa del Rey.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Barcelona drew for­mer topflight club Her­cules, while Real Madrid was paired with Cul­tural y De­portiva Leonesa.

Atletico Madrid also drew a third-di­vi­sion club, Gui­juelo.

The only fourth-di­vi­sion club to have reached this stage, the Balearic Is­land club For­mentera, will face Sevilla.

Barcelona won its record 28th Copa del Rey last sea­son, af­ter Madrid was dis­qual­i­fied in the open­ing round for field­ing an in­el­i­gi­ble player.

SPAIN

La Liga

Yes­ter­day Las Pal­mas-Es­panyol . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-0 To­day Le­ganes-Sevilla Barcelona-Dep. La Coruna At. Madrid-Granada Real Betis-Real Madrid To­mor­row Dep. Alaves-Malaga Ath. Bil­bao-Real So­ciedad Sp. Gi­jon-Va­len­cia Vil­lar­real-Celta Vigo Mon­day Eibar-Osasuna

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