Mascherano buoyed by Messi return

Madrid: Javier Mascherano has revealed his delight at the impending return of Lionel Messi for Barcelona.

The four-time Ballon d`Or winner is in the latter stages of his recovery from a hamstring injury - which he suffered in the 4-1 win over Real Betis on November 11.

Messi is expected to feature in Barcelona`s clash with Elche on January 5 - the club`s first game after the international break - and Mascherano cannot wait to line-up alongside his compatriot again.

He said: "I spoke to Leo during all his injury. I know that he`s very well, and that he has made a fantastic recovery."

In his absence, the Blaugrana have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League but have seen their lead at the top of La Liga eroded, with second-placed Atletico Madrid level with Barca on 46 points.

Messi will find out whether he has been successful in his bid to add to his record haul of Ballon d`Or awards when the winner of the prize is announced on January 13, with the 26-year-old on a three-man shortlist alongside Real Madrid`s Cristiano Ronaldo and Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery.

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