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Iniesta in line for Clasico return - Luis Enrique

10:35 AM EST 11/29/16
The captain looks set to make his return from a knee injury during Saturday's clash with La Liga leaders Real Madrid said the coach, who also defended Paco Alcacer's poor form

Andres Iniesta is in contention to make his return from a knee injury when Barcelona meet Real Madrid in El Clasico on Saturday, Luis Enrique has confirmed.

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The Spain international suffered ligament damage during the dramatic 3-2 La Liga win at Valencia on October 22, leaving the field in tears following a strong challenge from Enzo Perez.

Iniesta was initially expected to miss between six and eight weeks of action, but he looks set to return sooner than predicted.

And Luis Enrique is confident he can be involved on Saturday, as Barca seek to avoid falling nine points behind their bitter rivals at the top of the table.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday's Copa del Rey clash with Hercules, the coach said: "Andres is waiting for medical clearance but it's more of a formality really.

"He is training with us and looks in great condition. He won't be playing Wednesday because he is suspended, but we are just waiting on confirmation [for El Clasico]. But in theory he is selectable."

Wednesday's trip to Alicante could see Paco Alcacer afforded a rare start in attack, with the former Valencia striker enduring a lot of criticism for his underwhelming start to life at Camp Nou.

And Luis Enrique was quick to defend the Spain international, urging the media to cut him some slack.

"I think you should leave the guy in peace," he said. "Why put pressure on a player not getting much playing time. 

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"Paco needs to be left to develop in peace with the time he is getting on the pitch, which isn't much. 

"So let's not dwell on the negatives of a player who has come here to help us. 

"It's ridiculous to put him under such pressure."

Barca's 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad on Sunday was the fourth game in seven across all competitions that the Catalans have failed to win, but Luis Enrique is adamant there is no reason to panic.

"I have infinite theories," he added. "We are trying to resolve it. It's not one simple thing that you press one button for and everything works. 

"I understand the situation – naturally. I gave my clear opinion before and after every game. Evidently we need to improve but I see no signs for excessive worry other than isolated episodes that have happened.

"Perhaps we need to be more consistent, even the players acknowledged that, but let's not exaggerate. We did that in my first season but we went and won the treble."