Messi expected to be ready for Espanyol clash

Ernesto Valverde expects Barcelona captain Lionel Messi to be available to face Espanyol despite the forward carrying an injury.

Lionel Messi has scored 29 goals in the league this season.   -  Getty Images

Lionel Messi is ready for Barcelona's derby clash with Espanyol in La Liga despite a pelvic injury, according to coach Ernesto Valverde.

Messi has hit 29 La Liga goals this term to help Barca sit 10 points clear at the top of the table, while he has been inspirational in its run to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

The Argentina attacker missed action with a fractured arm earlier in the season and Valverde confirmed Messi has ongoing fitness issues ahead of the run-in.

"We think so," Valverde told reporters when asked if Messi was at 100 per cent for Saturday's derby at Camp Nou.

"Leo has had these niggles for a while and we are taking care of that. Before Christmas he had these problems and we have been working with him to resolve them.

"The process with the national team is the same. Now he is back and he feels better for the coming games."

Messi returned to international action after nine months without playing for Argentina, but after facing Venezuela in Madrid he dropped out of the squad for a friendly against Morocco, receiving criticism over his commitment as a result.

"He seems calm to me. In football we're all subject to highs and lows," Valverde added.

"At times they're excessive, Leo was spectacular before the international break, then he went away and got injured, it's just a circumstance.

"We have another game in another competition then he'll go back with some new challenges. He's in good form.

"We're managing this in a natural way. I was talking to him before as he had a little problem in training but we're all connected, the physios and the players to find out how players are.

"That's the case for Leo and other players too, this is how we take decisions. From time to time we ask how he is, just like everyone else."

Luis Suarez is in the squad to face Espanyol after recovering from an ankle injury.

"He's good, we're taking precautions with him as there is a risk of a little scare. He could suffer another knock, but the break has been good for him," Valverde added.

Ousmane Dembele is still out, though, and Valverde is unclear when the France forward may return from a torn hamstring.

"I don't know if he will be back next week, we will try to be careful with his injury," the Barca coach said.

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