The return of Messi and Bale

Barcelona and Real Madrid will be boosted by the return of Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale this weekend as both sides prepare for a vital week in their season.

The two giants will clash in the first El Clasico of the season at the Nou Camp next weekend and must also negotiate huge Champions League ties in midweek as Real host Juventus and Barca travel to face AC Milan.

A return to league action comes first though, with Real welcoming Malaga to the Santiago Bernabeu tonight, while Barcelona are away to Osasuna tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The Catalans are sitting pretty atop La Liga, alongside Atletico Madrid, five points clear of Real, having won all eight of their league games so far.

Indeed, both Barca and Atletico have the chance to match Real's league record of nine wins to start the campaign from the 1968/69 season.

Messi's return after missing the victories over Celtic and Valladolid is not the only good news on the injury front for Gerardo Martino's men as centre backs Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol could both feature tomorrow morning.

Important figure

Puyol hasn't played since undergoing knee surgery in March and midfielder Sergio Busquets underlined his importance as a leader both on and off the field.

"He's an important figure in the dressing room. We're all very happy for him. It's clear to see that he is close to being back to full fitness and he'll soon be fully integrated back into the team."

Real have the chance to temporarily cut the gap at the top to two points as they play first today against an improving Malaga side.

Carlo Ancelotti's men have been far from impressive despite winning six of their eight league games to date, thanks in large part to last-minute winners away to Elche and Levante.

"I can say that in the games coming up, Malaga and Juventus at home and Barcelona in the Nou Camp, we'll do better. At the same time, we couldn't play worse than we did against Levante and Elche," Ancelotti said.

Although not expected to start, Bale should feature at some stage as he continues to recover from a thigh injury which kept him out of the games against FC Copenhagen and Levante.