Messi enters third stage of injury recovery as Barcelona return nears

The Argentine has begun work on his physical conditioning after tearing a thigh muscle in November as he attempts to be ready to for action following the winter break
Barcelona have received encouraging news ahead of 2014, with Lionel Messi entering the third and final stage of his injury rehabilitation.

Messi has been sidelined since the Liga clash with Real Betis on November 10 with a torn left femoral bicep, and has spent the past three weeks recuperating in his native Argentine at the headquarters of the Argentine Football Association.

Barca sent sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and club doctor Ricard Pruna to check up on Messi's progress and the club have now announced that the current Ballon d'Or holder is progressing as planned as he looks to be fit in time to return to action after the winter break.

"Tests on Friday on the premises of the AFA have confirmed that Messi has completed the clinical stage of his recovery. The player now begins the third stage, the physcial preparation," a statement on the club's website reads.

Messi, who managed 14 goals in 16 appearances prior to his latest injury, is expected to be fit to return in January, although the top-of-the-table clash with Atletico Madrid on January 11 could come to soon for the Argentina captain.

The 26-year-old has been named as one of the three nominees for the 2013 Ballon d'Or, along with Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, despite seeing much of the past year blighted by injury problems.