Barcelona star Javier Mascherano has moved a step closer to returning to Gerardo Martino's side by playing 45 minutes in a practice match.

The former Liverpool midfielder has not played for the first team since September 24, when the Argentine international was substituted against Real Sociedad in the 35th minute after picking up a hamstring injury.

The Catalan giants won the match 4-1 with Pol Calvet, Munir El Haddadi Mohamed, Denis Suarez and Carles Planas all getting on the scoresheet.

Barcelona boss Martino will be delighted with news that Mascherano could be available for selection after the two-week international break.

Martino will be desperate to have the 29-year-old back in contention with first team defenders Jordi Alba and Carles Puyol currently out injured.

Mascherano's return will give Martino's side a timely boost with Barcelona facing crucial games in the Champions League and in La Liga against Milan and Real Madrid in October.

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