Lionel Messi has handed Barcelona a fitness boost ahead of the Nov. 21 Clasico against Real Madrid after returning to outdoor pitch training with running and ball work on Monday, according to reports.
Following the impending international break, Barca will go into the Bernabeu clash three points ahead of Madrid at the top of La Liga, with Luis Enrique's side having hit form in recent weeks as Rafa Benitez's team have stumbled.
The next fortnight ahead of the game is likely to be dominated by coverage of Messi's fitness, with it not yet clear whether the Blaugrana talisman will return from injury to feature.
When the 28-year-old picked up the knee injury against Las Palmas in late September, the club quickly set his recovery period at seven to eight weeks -- the exact time between that game and the Clasico date.
According to Mundo Deportivo, Messi last week went through an individual programme with Argentina physiotherapists Luis Garcia and Marcelo d'Andrea, and made a "major advance" in returning to Barca's Ciutat Esportiva on Monday to begin work again with the club's medical staff having responded positively to the special treatment.
In the interim Neymar and Luis Suarez have stepped up, scoring 10 goals each and making 10 assists between them in the 10 La Liga and Champions League games without their fellow South American forward.
Speaking at a Federacio Catalana de Futbol [FCF] organised event, Blaugrana president Josep Maria Bartomeu echoed club figures including coach Luis Enrique in saying nobody would "force" the issue, with Messi only returning to play when he was fully ready.
"Leo Messi's recovery is going along the expected timeframe, but we have no intention to force anything," Bartomeu said. "If he is ready to play in the game, sensational, but if he is not, we have a lot of talent to beat them."
Bartomeu said everyone at the Camp Nou was excited about the Clasico, and would now be hoping that players away on international duty did not pick up injury problems.
"It is a game which you are excited about, and we are ready to play it and win it," he said. "We hope all the players return OK from their national team duty."
Meanwhile, Gerard Pique says Barca are approaching the Clasico in their best form of the season so far.
The buildup to the game continued last weekend with Pique saying after Barca's 3-0 win at home to Villarreal that he got "excited" by such huge games, and Blancos captain Sergio Ramos responding after Madrid's 3-2 defeat at Sevilla by saying he'd "never reached orgasm" during a match.
Receiving the award for 2014-15 'Catalan Player of the Year,' Barcelona native Pique said he hoped for a positive result at the Bernabeu which would see his team continue as La Liga leaders.
- FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 9, 2015
"We are arriving at the Clasico in our best moment of the season," the 28-year-old said. "We will go in as leaders, and we hope to come out in the same position."
Spain international Pique has been regularly whistled while playing for La Roja through recent months, and said he would not be surprised by similar treatment at the Bernabeu ahead of the friendly against England on Nov. 13.
"I do not know if I will be whistled at the Bernabeu, but that would be something normal," he added. "The truth is that we [Barca players] are never well received there."