Barcelona: Ernesto Valverde has indicated Lionel Messi and Samuel Umtiti are both ready to return for Barcelona against Real Betis on Sunday but Ousmane Dembele has been dropped.
Messi has been out since breaking his arm against Sevilla on October 20 while Umtiti has been nursing a knee problem and has not played since September 26.
Both are included in the squad to face Betis in La Liga this weekend but there was a surprise omission for Dembele.
Valverde said the 21-year-old had been left out after a “sporting assessment”.
Messi’s return would come as a major boost to Barca. Their captain was included in the travelling squad to face Inter Milan on Wednesday but was not deemed fit enough even for the bench.
Asked if he could play 90 minutes against Betis, Valverde said: “We will see, but he’s lost his fear of falling or struggling against an opponent.
“You have to get that out of your head, you cannot be thinking if you are about to make a bad movement. I have seen him training well and with confidence.”
Messi’s absence should have been a golden opportunity for Dembele but the winger’s form has been mixed in recent weeks, while Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Rafinha and Malcom have all impressed.
“Everyone can interpret it how they want but this is a team,” Valverde said. “I’m looking for the best for the team and that’s it.”
Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari, meanwhile, has challenged Gareth Bale to “eat the stage every time he plays” after he starred in their win over Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday.
Madrid travel to Celta Vigo in La Liga on Sunday, looking to continue a revival that has included three wins out of three since Solari took temporary charge.
As the team’s form fell away under Julen Lopetegui, so did Bale’s, the winger following up a strong start to the season with just one goal in eight games.
An adductor injury contributed to Bale’s dry patch but he was excellent against Plzen in the Champions League, scoring one and setting up another for Karim Benzema in the 5-0 victory.
“I like him everywhere,” Solari said on Saturday. “What Bale has to do is eat the stage every time he plays, just like he did against Viktoria Plzen.”
Solari’s time allowed as an interim coach will expire over the international break, meaning this weekend’s match against Celta is his final audition for a longer stay in charge.
A fourth consecutive win is likely to earn him the job, at least until the end of the season, particularly given the lack of obvious alternatives available.
Solari played down the game’s significance on his future. “Each game is final for many reasons,” Solari said. “If you lose points you cannot recover. I just focus on the next game. Longer-term work is outside my role.
“My role is to think about facing the next match with maximum concentration.”