Messi 100 percent for Japan friendly

TOKYO, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Lionel Messi is set to play for Argentina against Japan after recovering from an ankle injury, national coach Sergio Batistuta said on Thursday.

The Barcelona forward is unlikely to start in Friday's friendly in Saitama but has made quick progress after getting hurt playing against Atletico Madrid on September 19.

"Messi has recovered from his injury," Batistuta told reporters. "He is definitely able to play. I can't tell you my line-up yet because I haven't told the players.

"But physically Messi is 100 percent and ready to play."

Batistuta said he will give Messi's Barca team mate Javier Mascherano the captain's armband against Japan.

"I spoke to Leo and he understands," said Batistuta. "I don't want him to feel any extra pressure by making him captain. I want him to be relaxed."

Batistuta defended Messi's record at national level, insisting criticism of the 23-year-old was unjustified.

"Playing for your club and playing for your country are totally different," he said. "I don't accept that Messi has not played well for Argentina."

The South Americans were thrashed 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals of this year's World Cup in South Africa.

"People expect too much from him," added Batistuta. "He played well at the World Cup whatever people say. He can still improve too."