BARCELONA - Barcelona received a welcome boost on Tuesday when forward Lionel Messi was given the all-clear by medical staff and included in the squad for Wednesday's King's Cup last 16, first leg at home to Getafe.
The Argentine World Player of the Year has not featured for the Spanish league champions since straining his thigh on Nov. 10, the latest in a series of muscle injuries that plagued him throughout 2013.
His return will give the team a lift as they prepare for Saturday's La Liga game at title rivals Atletico Madrid who are level with Barca at the top on 49 points from 18 matches.
Coach Gerardo Martino did not reveal at a news conference whether Messi would feature against Getafe, the team he scored one of the greatest goals of his career against in a King's Cup game in April 2007.
Receiving the ball just inside the Barca half, he dashed through the opposition defence and slotted into the net from a narrow angle, covering 55 metres in 12 seconds.
Many compared the goal to the brilliant effort compatriot Diego Maradona scored against England at the 1986 World Cup.
"If he plays tomorrow hopefully he will score another one just like it," said Martino with a smile.
"He came back (from Argentina) and has been working like any other member of the squad," added Martino who hails from Messi's home town of Rosario.
"Obviously he is lacking a bit of playing time but seeing as we are talking about Leo it is not really an issue. He has told me he is feeling fine and that's why he is in the squad."
Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets is available after he was suspended for Sunday's 4-0 La Liga win at home to Elche but playmaker Xavi is rested.
(Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Justin Palmer)