Jan 4, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT
Barcelona manager Tata Martino will not deploy Lionel Messi for Sunday’s league match against Elche, according to a report from the Associated Press.
After six weeks out of the lineup with a hamstring injury, the diminutive superstar is healthy — after all, he did score a “hat trick” in an open training session this week (VIDEO) — but:
Martino said, “from what I see (Messi) is excited to play, he is fit, with the eyes of a killer,” but he still “lacks playing time.”
The absence found Barca losing two of eight matches, but the Blaugrana can still pull even with Atletico Madrid — who won Saturday — atop the table with a win on Sunday. Real Madrid is five points behind Barcelona and eight behind Atletico, but can shrink those gaps on Sunday as well.
Victor Valdes and Xavi Hernandez will return to Barca’s lineup.
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