Lionel Messi ready to face Bilbao in Spanish La Liga

AFP, Friday 12 Sep 2014

Lionel Messi
Barcelona's Lionel Messi, right, duels for the ball with Villarreal's Victor Ruiz, left (Photo: AP)

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has confirmed that Lionel Messi will be fit to face Athletic Bilbao on Saturday despite skipping Argentina's World Cup final rematch with Germany last week due to a groin strain.

"Messi is ready to play. He has trained both on his own and with the group," Enrique said on Friday.

"The relationship every player has with his international team is different. What concerns me is his relationship with the club and it has been great so far."

After a series of tired looking performances towards the end of last season and at the World Cup, Messi has looked back to his best as Barca have opened up the new La Liga season with back-to-back victories over Elche and Villarreal.

And Enrique could call on Brazilian star Neymar from the start for the first time this season against Athletic after he returned from captaining Brazil for the first time in victories over Colombia and Ecuador without any injury problems.

"He is in the right condition to play, in fact almost everyone is ready and available to be selected.

"Neymar is a special player. He has already been subjected to incredible pressure in his country and in his club career and I hope that from that base he can become one of the best players in the world."

The match at the Camp Nou has also been given an extra political edge as Barca will wear their red and yellow away shirt, designed to symbolise the Catalan flag, to commemorate the region's loss of sovereignty 300 years ago.

"I think it is an interesting idea," added Enrique.

"I hope that the Senyera (Catalan flag) gives us strength and that the crowd support us in the more difficult moments."

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