MADRID (Reuters) - Victor Valdes has recovered from a calf strain more quickly than expected and is targeting a return in Barcelona's La Liga match at home to Elche on January 5, the Spain goalkeeper said on Friday.
Valdes sustained the injury playing for the world and European champions in a friendly against South Africa in November and has been replaced in the starting lineup by Jose Manuel Pinto.
"I am feeling very good," Valdes told a news conference.
"These weeks have been unusual for me as I had never been injured before but we have now completed two goalkeeping sessions and one more intense one and everything has gone faster than expected," he added.
"The latest tests show everything has mended. I am excited about playing again and if everything goes well the plan is for me to make my comeback against Elche if the coach decides that is the right decision."
Valdes, 31, has decided to leave Barca at the end of the season after a decade as a first-team regular but has yet to reveal where he is headed.
"For me the most important thing is to respect Barca until the end," he said, adding that his future club had not yet been decided and the issue was in the hands of his agent.
"I will not make anything public at a juncture in the campaign which could have a negative impact.
"The important thing is that team wins and we get the titles that we are targeting."
Barca are level on 43 points with Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga after 16 matches and play their final game before the winter break at Getafe on Sunday.
They are also through to the last 16 of both the Champions League and the King's Cup, where they will meet Manchester City and Getafe respectively.
(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Ed Osmond)