YOKOHAMA, Japan: Barcelona could welcome Neymar back from injury for this weekend’s Club World Cup final against River Plate after the Brazilian striker stepped up his training in Yokohama on Friday.
The 23-year-old, who was rested for Thursday’s 3-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande as he recovers from a groin strain, performed some dribbling drills and light sprints and could yet play a part against River.
Meanwhile, Lionel Messi, sidelined for the semi-final after coming down with a kidney complaint, skipped training, although Barca manager Luis Enrique refused to rule out his return for Sunday’s clash.
“I don’t know if we will have Neymar and Messi for the final,” Enrique told reporters. “They don’t know if they will be ready and neither do we, so we’ll have to see.”
Messi, who reportedly went to hospital for tests after being diagnosed with renal colic, posted on his Facebook page: “It’s never fun to miss any game, but I hope to get better to be able to help in the finals.”
With Messi and Neymar missing, Luis Suarez fired a hat-trick — the first in the tournament’s history — to give Barca an easy win over Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Chinese side.
“Luis is a sensational player,” said Enrique. “He is a killer inside the box and an essential member of the team. When you need a goal, he always comes up with one for you.”
Barca’s players also gushed about Suarez after the former Liverpool forward scored with a classic poacher’s strike before halftime and followed that with a breath-taking volley five minutes after the break.
He completed his treble from the penalty spot to give him 22 goals in 23 competitive matches this season.
“Luis has been a superb player for many years,” said left-back Jordi Alba. “But you can see that the way Barca plays suits him down to the ground.”
Dani Alves missed Friday’s practice with a bruised foot, but his availability for Sunday’s final is not thought to be in doubt.
European champions Barcelona are attempting to become the first side to win the Club World Cup three times.
The Catalan giants beat Argentina’s Estudiantes 2-1 in 2009 and thrashed Brazil’s Santos 4-0 two years later, when Neymar was on the losing side.
River Plate, who struggled to beat Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 in their semi-final in Osaka on Wednesday, enjoyed an afternoon shopping in Tokyo, stopping to sign autographs and pose for photos with Japanese fans.