Lionel Messi completes full training with Barcelona

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi officially returned to full training on Monday five days before the La Liga leaders play at Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season, the club said on Monday.

Messi has not featured since tearing a ligament in his left knee back on Sept. 26, and the Spanish and European champions have been forced to play without their top scorer.

"The session included Leo Messi, who is continuing his recovery from the left knee injury he picked up on Sept. 26," Barca said.

Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic, sidelined since damaging a calf muscle in the Champions League Group E game at home to BATE Borisov on Nov. 4, was also back in training.

Over the weekend, Barcelona full-back Adriano expressed his belief that Messi would be fit to play in Saturday's Clasico.

Adriano said Messi has been acting like his usual self as he tries to recover in time for the game at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

"He is recovering very well, doing everything to get to the game and to have him in the team changes a lot," Adriano told Mundo Deportivo. "There's a difference when he plays or doesn't, but in his absence we've managed to come together and move forward in matches.

"Every day he's been the Leo we're accustomed to: laughing, joking, and doing things with confidence.

"Would I put money on him playing in the Clasico? Hopefully, yes."

With 11 matches played, the Catalan club, who are chasing a sixth La Liga title in eight years, lead Real Madrid by three points, with Atletico Madrid a further point behind in third.