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Messi: I’m excited to be back

And it didn’t take long for the Argentina forward to make his mark as he slotted home from close range before registering his 16th goal of the season with a trademark solo run and finish in stoppage time.

“I had a lot of time out and I felt very good in the training sessions that I had, but playing in a competitive game in completely different,” he told Barça TV.

“More than the goals, I feel very good physically and I have been able to play without any pain so I am obviously very happy.”

After undergoing the first period of his recovery process in Barcelona, Messi travelled to Argentinato continue his recuperation in December.

There will be high expectations placed upon the 26-year-old over the next seven months as he spearheads Barça’s campaign to win trophies on three fronts before leading his country at the FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil.

But after a significant period on the sidelines, he insisted he is just happy to be back playing again.

“I am very happy,” smiled Messi. “I was able to spend a lot of time in my country with my family and friends and to get away from everything. But now I am back I am excited and desperate to have a great year.

“I want to keep achieving things, to contribute to our play, help my team-mates and hopefully we can achieve our objectives. They will be five very tough months, but we will fight to win everything, as we always do at this club, and then I can think about the national team.”

Next up for Barcelona is a crucial top of the table clash with Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday.

The Catalans had always hoped that Messi would be fit to play some part in the Spanish capital, but he said it will be up to Barça coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino whether he starts at the weekend.

“I will speak with Tata and he is the one that will decide, but right now I don’t know,” he said. “No one is irreplaceable. I watched the games at home and they were very impressive. Whoever plays in this squad they always respond to the challenge.”

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