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Soccer-Messi ready for return to Barca starting line-up

Reuters

BARCELONA, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino could put Lionel Messi back into the starting lineup for the King's Cup game against Getafe on Thursday as he continues to ease him back from injury.

The Argentine forward suffered a series of hamstring strains last year and Barca have tried to ensure he is not only fit, but strong enough to be a decisive influence in the key games towards the end of the season.

He was introduced as a substitute for the top-of-the-table clash against Atletico Madrid on Saturday which ended in a 0-0 draw.

Now, with Barca leading 4-0 from their home leg in the King's Cup Last 16 tie against Getafe, Martino believes it would be a good moment to give the four-times World Player of the Year a longer run-out.

"We have obviously talked it over and I have asked him how he feels," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"The situation is now different from last week as he has had a serious of solid training sessions. He is looking strong in training and now he has more possibilities to start because he has more possibilities to be able to finish the match," Martino added.

"It would not be wise to put Messi or any other player at risk and we don't think there is a risk. We are trying to create the situation so that when he starts that he is in top condition.

"In the last two games he has come in during the second half and he has looked strong. This is a good opportunity but we will decide if it is right for him to start."

Barca travel without the injured Andres Iniesta while Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets are rested and have remained behind in Catalonia.

"The aim is to be well placed at the end of the season and clearly at Barcelona it is necessary to have titles because Barca has done it year after year," Martino said.

"Coaches plan ahead and I think we are doing well. There is a lot to learn at the club with the players, other people at the club and what Barca means (as an institution)."

"We have footballers with a lot of ability who are capable of winning matches in different types of circumstances. Above all they have never tired of winning and keep going. If you have players like that then your aims are a lot easier." (Reporting by Tim Hanlon, editing by Ed Osmond)

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