Messi ‘really excited’ to be back in the Barcelona squad, says coach Koeman

The Argentina superstar sat out the draw with Eibar on account of an ankle injury but will be back to face Huesca

Ronald Koeman says Lionel Messi is back to full fitness and “really excited” to be in the Barcelona squad for the game with Huesca.

Messi was absent for the 1-1 draw with Eibar in La Liga on Tuesday on account of an ankle injury.

Koeman described Messi as a “ bit banged up in his ankle ” ahead of the game with Eibar, but he trained freely on New Year’s Eve and was pictured with his team-mates on Saturday.

Following the training session, Koeman confirmed the club’s talisman at 100 per cent fitness and ready for the trip to Huesca on Sunday.

“Leo is fine,” Dutch coach Koeman said at a press conference . “He was training the 30th and 31st while the rest of the squad was resting.

“No doubts for him, he has great fitness and is happy and really excited and that is important for us.”

Messi returns with Barca facing an uphill battle in the Liga title race.

The draw with Eibar meant Barcelona entered 2021 trailing leaders Atletico Madrid by 10 points.

Even with a peak-form Messi, Barca would find it tough to peg back the deficit and the focus may now turn to the Champions League and securing a top-four finish in La Liga.

A player not in the squad for the trip to Huesca is midfielder Philippe Coutinho who has been sidelined by a knee injury that has required surgery .

“Philippe will be about three months out injured,” Koeman said. “He has always been an important player, and will be important again, but now he has to recover.

“I do not know when he will be 100% recovered. He is an important absence and we will have to see how we can solve Philippe’s absence.”

Also missing the trip to Huesca is defender Samuel Umtiti who has been sidelined by a stomach illness.

Umtiti joins Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto and Ansu Fati on the list of absences for Barcelona.

The trip to Huesca is the first of a run of four successive away games – Athletic Club, Granada and Elche being the others – for Barca as they bid to battle their way back into the Liga title picture.

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