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Puyol Nearly Ready. Messi, Neymar Fine

While the football world salivates over the glittering new signings at some of European club football’s top teams this weekend, at Barcelona the attention will be on an old dog of war.

The Spanish champions gave up on their ill-fated quest to sign a star new central defender during the transfer window, and as it stands, Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano remain their first-choice centre backs.

But veteran club skipper and talismanic stopper Carles Puyol is inching his way back to full fitness, and trained fully with his team-mates for the first time on Friday.

The catalogue of injuries Puyol has been recovering from attests to his warrior’s nature: two operations on the same knee, a fractured cheekbone and a dislocated elbow.

He is nearing the ability to play competitive football again, and to Barca he is the cliché of the returning player as a ‘new signing’.

"We are at the end of Puyol's period of recuperation," coach Gerardo Martino said on Friday.

"The team is getting its captain back and we have the centre back we wanted."

Meanwhile, Sevilla coach, Unai Emery, must have shuddered after Martino confirmed that both Lionel Messi and Neymar are ready to play against them this weekend, despite their midweek exertions for Argentina and Brazil.

Messi in particular gives Emery nightmares, having scored against the teams he has managed 14 times! In 12 games, Emery has never beaten Barca, with La Pulga Atomica his tormentor in chief.

"Messi and Neymar had very long journeys and we have to assess their fitness for the match, but physically they are fine," Martino said ominously.

Read: Barca: Our Defence Is Fine

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