El Clasico: Messi To Face Late Fitness Set

Spanish daily AS has reported that Barcelona coach Luis Enrique will make a late decision on whether to risk Lionel Messi in the top-of-the-table clash against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Messi has not played since injuring his left knee in the win against Las Palmas in September.

The 28-year-old took part in a full training session on Wednesday alongside Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Marc Bartra, who all returned from international duty with Spain.

According to AS, Messi will be handed a fitness test on Friday and start on the bench against Real if he comes through it.

AS said the Argentina captain is likely to be named as a substitute and enter the fray in the second half, similar to when he came off the bench to score the winner at Atletico Madrid in September.

And speaking ahead of Saturday clash, fellow Barca forward Luis Suarez said Messi looked sharp in training, but that it was touch-and-go whether he would take part in the first El Clasico of the season.

"Messi can change the game and he's done incredible things in previous Clasicos. But it depends on the doctors and what they think is best for him," Suarez told Barcelona's official website.

"He has looked good while training with us over the last few days but it's an injury that could take a sudden turn for the worse."

He continued: "Messi makes all the difference, but we'll have to wait and see whether he starts or perhaps comes on later.

"At the [Vicente] Calderon he showed that he can come on for just twenty minutes and get you three points."

Meanwhile, AS said Ivan Rakitic remained doubtful to feature against Real due to a calf problem. The Croatian playmaker has not played since suffering a muscle tear against BATE Borisov in the Champions League on 4 November.

Luis Enrique's side can go six points clear at the top of the La Liga table if they beat second-placed Real on 21 November.

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