Messi showing killer form but not ready for Elche
Lionel Messi is showing lethal form in training that suggests he will be back to his best soon although he will not feature in Sunday's clash with Elche, Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said.
The Argentine has had three training sessions in Barcelona since returning from his recovery programme in Buenos Aires and Rosario and scored a hat-trick in a practice game on Friday.
"I am very pleased with his progress. He is physically strong and is showing the killer look he had before. If he continues like this and maintains the confidence then he will return to be the player that everyone remembers," Martino told a news conference.
Messi has suffered a series of hamstring strains since the end of last season and has been out of action since mid-November.
"The treatment always depends on the extent of problem but we haven't dealt with this one any different to the others. The aim is to build him up sufficiently so that he will be strong for the rest of the season," said Martino.
"He has been training with his team mates with the ball and building up his resistance. When he is ready then he will be put into the team."
Barca suffered a spate of injuries in the run up to Christmas but the treatment room is now clearing with Victor Valdes also ready to return for the first game of the New Year.
"Our aim was to be well-placed in all three competitions at the end of December and that is what we have achieved. We have a squad which is not particularly big but is sufficient. The players have come back from their break looking in good shape," said Martino.
"We now have four and half months to go and it is not just certain games which are important but all of them. We take on Elche who are a promoted side which is progressing well and have had good results."
Barca are level on 46 points with Atletico Madrid, who face Malaga on Saturday. Real Madrid are five points adrift and are in action against Celta Vigo on Monday.