BARCELONA: Football fans in Spain now have two weeks without any matches in the La Liga to look forward to. But though it is a fortnight away, there is no doubt that the 'Clasico' between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona on November 21 will occupy an increasing number of headlines as the tie edges closer.
Barcelona will go into the game with a three-point lead over Real Madrid as a result of last weekend's matches, but with one big question to be answered: Will Lionel Messi bit fit to play?
It will be seven weeks since the prolific striker damaged knee ligaments against Las Palmas by the time the big game arrives: and that is the time estimated that the Argentinean would need to recover, reports Xinhua.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was giving nothing away when asked about whether his star player would be ruled out of the biggest game of the season to date.
"No, yes, no, no," he replied. "He is in his recovery process and he's doing well. There are two weeks and in two weeks, or before or after the game, we will have Leo Messi available."
He may have been playing with the press over Messi's recovery, but it made it clear that the club' s priority was the player's fitness, not just for one game, but for the long term.
"The only thing that has worried me since he got injured is that Leo recovered well. We are a lot stronger with Messi," he insisted.
That may well be the case, but Luis Suarez and Neymar have stepped up to the plate in Messi's absence, scoring Barcelona's last 17 goals, including the three in their win over Villarreal on Sunday.
"I am delighted to have Neymar, Messi, (Sergio) Busquet, Andres Iniesta and Suarez. It is a privilege to work with them and they are players who together have an incredible level. What we look for is harmony," said the Barcelona coach.