BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino says Lionel Messi has returned to fitness from his injury layoff, but won't play his star forward in Sunday's league game against Elche .
"In my view Messi is full of desire, I think he is in very good shape physically and has the look of a killer," said Martino. He needs to gain more rhythm from training with his teammates and then in competitive action, but he is doing very well."
Messi trained with his teammates this week for the first time since tearing his left hamstring in November and spending time in Argentina doing rehab.
While Messi improves his fitness, goalkeeper Victor Valdes made the squad for Sunday's game against Elche. Valdes hasn't played for six weeks since injuring his right leg. Xavi Hernandez also returns from injury, while Dani Alves is out with a fever. Yet, Martino remains confident over Barcelona's chances against Elche.
"There is no reason why we should take a step back in the way we have been playing," said Martino in a press conference. "The players have returned in good shape and we hope to start the league again with a high level of performance."