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Football

Late Clasico decision on Messi

Lionel Messi after injuring his left knee in September
Lionel Messi after injuring his left knee in September Reuters/Sergio Perez
Text by: Andy May
2 min

Lionel Messi's involvement in El Clasico will be determined an hour before kick-off following his return from injury. The Argentine forward, 28, has not played for Barcelona since September because of knee trouble but returned to training this week.

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Real Madrid have a fully fit squad to choose from, knowing victory at the Santiago Bernabeu will allow them to overtake Barca at the top of La Primera.

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique admits Messi will be far from his best if selected.

"We know that he won't be 100 per cent but whether he plays or not, the great news is that he is fit again," he said. "I do not have things planned yet - I will speak with Leo and an hour before the game things will be decided."

Karim Benzema is among Madrid's attacking options. The France international is currently under formal investigation in connection with a sex-tape blackmail plot, maintaining his innocence. Benzema has missed his club's last six matches through injury.

"Benzema is in the squad, he trained well and is part of the group," Real manager Rafael Benitez said.

"We still have to decide whether he starts or not."

The security operation for what is widely regarded as the world's biggest club football match has been significantly increased following the 13 November Paris attacks.

More than 1,000 police officers will be present at the Bernabeu - double the number normally deployed for a Clasico.

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