BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona's Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta was back in training on Thursday as he continues his recovery from a calf strain.
Iniesta sustained the injury in last month's 3-1 defeat at Real Madrid in the La Liga 'Clasico' and although he has yet to be given the all-clear by the club's medical staff he could feature in Saturday's game at home to fifth-placed Sevilla.
Thomas Vermaelen, who joined from Arsenal in the close season but has yet to make his official debut, and fellow defender Jeremy Mathieu also trained on Thursday as they bid to shake off niggling injuries, Barca said on their website (www.fcbarcelona.es).
They are second in La Liga after 11 matches, two points behind leaders Real, who play at Eibar on Saturday.
Iniesta's return would provide some much-needed creativity in a side that has struggled for goals in recent outings.
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, whose ban for biting an opponent at this year's World Cup expired the day before the 'Clasico', has still not opened his account in three La Liga appearances and one in the Champions League for his new club.
Brazil forward Neymar has been in fine form but four-times World Player of the Year Lionel Messi has been off colour and remains one goal short of the Spanish top-flight record of 251 set six decades ago by ex-Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra.
Messi has been on 250 since netting against Eibar on Oct. 18. The 27-year-old, who has struck 18 times against Sevilla in 11 outings in all competitions, failed to score either in the 'Clasico' or in Barca's subsequent two games against Celta Vigo and Almeria, a long drought by his standards.
Messi also raised eyebrows this week when he gave the strongest hint yet that he might consider leaving Barca, although his father Jorge later played down his son's comments and said an exit was not currently on the agenda.
Messi's Argentina and Barca team mate Javier Mascherano told a news conference on Thursday that Messi was only expressing "what all soccer players think".
"In football you cannot predict what you are going to do in six years, you can't know what you will do in the future," added the former Liverpool player.
"That's the reality. He is in good shape and he wants to keep winning with Barca."
Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis