Neymar returns to action as Barca host struggling Vallecano


Neymar is set to boost leaders Barcelona’s La Liga title hopes by returning to action for Saturday’s home game with struggling Rayo Vallecano.

The 22-year-old Brazil forward has missed the last four league matches with a sprained right ankle.

“Neymar has been training fine, feels okay and has looked strong,” manager Gerardo Martino said on Friday.

“He is now competing with the rest for a place. I don’t like to talk about it as a test for him (against Rayo).”

 Neymar has scored nine times in 22 outings for Barcelona since moving to the Nou Camp in a £50m deal from Brazil’s Santos last May.

But he had to be helped from the pitch in the first half of the Spanish champions’  Copa del Rey win at Getafe on 16 January – and Barca have stuttered in his absence.

Despite league wins over Malaga and Sevilla, they have also lost at home to Valencia drawn away to Levante.

Barca, level on points with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, top La Liga with 15 games remaining thanks to a superior goal difference.

They are away to Manchester City in the Champions League round of 16 first leg next Tuesday.

But Martino insists he is fully focused on Rayo Vallecano, who are based in Madrid and second from bottom in the table, four points from safety.

Midfielder Xavi is rested ahead of the City game.

“Over the six or seven months so far, we have been building to this point by having rotations and from now on it will be less so,” added Martino.

“The idea has been to have the players in good condition for the World Cup as well as for Barcelona.”

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