Lionel Messi will be 'like a bull' when he returns for Barcelona, says Cesc Fabregas

The holder of the Ballon d'Or has been out for nearly two months

Lionel Messi will be “like a bull” when he returns after almost two months out with a thigh injury, his Barcelona team mate Cesc Fabregas predicted ahead of Sunday's La Liga match at home to Elche.

Messi flew back to the Catalan capital on Wednesday from his native Argentina, where he completed the final phase of his recovery, and will join Fabregas and the rest of Gerardo Martino's squad for training later on Thursday.

Martino will be wary of rushing the World Player of the Year back but is likely to give his compatriot at least some playing time against promoted Elche at the Nou Camp (1500 GMT) in Barca's first game after the winter break.

Messi may also feature in Wednesday's King's Cup last 16, first leg at home against Getafe in the hope he will be fully fit and able to play the whole of the La Liga match at title rivals Atletico Madrid on Jan. 11.

"He definitely needed to rest physically because he had already suffered this (injury) and there was no other option than to stop playing," Fabregas said in an interview with Marca sports daily published on Thursday.

"He had four or five injuries in a row in a muscle that he uses a lot in accelerating from a standstill, which is what sets him apart," added the former Arsenal captain, who was a contemporary of Messi's at the Barca academy.

"He had to stop no matter what and he'll be like a bull when he is back."

Champions Barca are level on 46 points with Atletico Madrid after 17 of 38 matches and lead the Spanish capital's second club, who play at mid-table Malaga on Saturday (1500), on goal difference.

Real Madrid are five points further back in third and play at 15th-placed Celta Vigo on Monday (1800).

Barca stumbled during Messi's most recent absence, losing consecutive games to Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League and Athletic Bilbao in La Liga.

However, their Brazil forward Neymar, signed in the close season from Santos, came into form in the run-up to the winter break and netted a hat-trick against Celtic, his first treble for the club, and a double against Villarreal.

Fabregas said the goals will help boost the 21-year-old's confidence.

"Scoring is all about streaks," he told Marca.

"Right now the goals are going in for Neymar and that will give him a bit more confidence, stability and composure in the penalty area.

"As time passes his importance to the team will increase. He is 21 and he will develop from game to game. The confidence will make him a better player."

Matchday 18 also features Sunday's derby clash between fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad (1900), four points behind their Basque rivals in fifth, at Sociedad's Anoeta stadium in San Sebastian.

Valencia's new coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has a tough test in his first game in charge when his side hosts local rivals Levante on Saturday (1900).

Valencia are in 11th place after an erratic start to their campaign that prompted the sacking of Serbian coach Miroslav Djukic last month.

Reuters

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests