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Messi returns for Barca as Koeman warns against dropping more points

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SHOWS: BARCELONA, SPAIN (JANUARY 2, 2021) (BARCA TV – MUST NOT OBSCURE LOGO)

1. BARCELONA PLAYERS ARRIVING AT PITCH FOR TRAINING SESSION

2. BARCELONA DEFENDER SERGI BUSQUESTS AND GOALKEEPER ANDRE TER STEGEN ARRIVING AT PITCH

3. BARCELONA PLAYERS ARRIVING AT PITCH

4. BARCELONA DEFENDER RONALD ARAUJO AND FORWARD OUSMANE DEMBELE ARRIVING AT PITCH

5. VARIOUS OF BARCELONA PLAYERS STARTING TRAINING SESSION

6. BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN WALKING ON PITCH

7. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN SAYING:

"Leo is fine, he is in good shape, he trained on Dec. 30 and 31 even when his team mates had days off and he has no more discomfort. He's ready, he's feeling happy and very determined and

that's very important for us."

8. BARCELONA FORWARD LIONEL MESSI AND SQUAD WARMING UP

9. BARCELONA PLAYERS RUNNING

10. BARCELONA MIDFIELDER MIRALEM PJANIC RUNNING DURING TRAINING SESSION

11. BARCELONA FORWARD ANTOINE GRIEZMANN MOVING LEGS AND WARMING UP

12. TRAINING SESSION

13. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN SAYING:

"He is free to decide what he wants. He has demonstrated that he wants the best for this team and I have no problem with him not making his decision right now. We aren't feeling nervous or worried about it."

14. VARIOUS OF BARCELONA GOALKEEPERS WARMING UP

15. TER STEGEN STRETCHING BEFORE TRAINING SESSION

16. BARCELONA MIDFIELDER FRENKIE DE JONG RUNNING AND JUMPING

17. TRAINING SESSION

18. BUSQUETS HUGGING PJANIC AND WALKING

19. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN SAYING:

"I'm a realist when it comes to our chances of winning the league. We cannot afford to lose more games and to drop many more points, and as Atletico are so consistent, it's very difficult for us."

20. BARCELONA PLAYERS RUNNING

21. MESSI RUNNING

22. BARCELONA PLAYERS WALKING ON PITCH

23. BARCELONA FORWARD PEDRI CHASING THE BALL DURING TRAINING DRILL

24. VARIOUS OF BARCELONA PLAYERS DURING TRAINING DRILL

25. MESSI KICKING THE BALL DURING TRAINING DRILL

26. TRAINING DRILL

27. TER STEGEN JUMPING AND BLOCKING THE BALL

28. GOALKEEPERS TRAINING SESSION

STORY: Lionel Messi has recovered from an ankle injury and ready to take on Huesca on Sunday (Januar 3) as Barcelona look to get their La Liga season back on track following last week's surprise 1-1 draw at home to Eibar, coach Ronald Koeman has said.

Barca's all-time top scorer watched on helplessly from the empty Camp Nou stands as his side struggled against the minnows but Komean said his captain had been working overtime to return to fitness.

"Messi is in good shape, he trained on Dec. 30 and 31 even when his team mates had days off he has no more discomfort," Koeman told a news conference on Saturday (January 2).

"He's ready, he's feeling happy and very determined and that's very important for us."

Messi is now into the final six months of his contract with Barca and has stated he will not decide his future until the end of the campaign, but Koeman said the uncertainty was no distraction for his side.

"Like any player who is finishing their contract, he is free to decide what he wants. He has demonstrated that he wants the best for this team and I have no problem with him not making his decision right now. We aren't feeling nervous or worried about it," he said.

Barca's draw with Eibar left them sixth in the standings and 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who also have a game in hand on the Catalans, and Koeman repeated his earlier belief that his side were slipping out of the title race.

"I'm a realist when it comes to our chances of winning the league. We cannot afford to lose more games and to drop many more points, and as Atletico are so consistent, it's very difficult for us," he said.

While Messi returns against Huesca, Barca will be without Philippe Coutinho, who underwent surgery on a knee injury and will be out for around three months.

The Brazilian is the fourth player the Catalans have lost to a long term injury this season after Ansu Fati, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.

(Production: Elena Rodriguez)