Thomas Vermaelen is confident he has put his injury problems behind him and hopes to establish his place in Barcelona’s starting XI under Ernesto Valverde.
Since arriving from Arsenal in 2014, the Belgium international has been blighted by hamstring and calf problems, the 32-year-old having only made 16 LaLiga appearances.
His time at Camp Nou looked like being over when he was loaned to Roma, but he has forced his way into the reckoning in 2017-18.
After making his first appearance of the season against Valencia in late November, Vermaelen has started Barca’s last three league encounters – including the 3-0 victory over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
And Vermaelen is feeling in better condition than at any other time with the Catalan giants.
“I understand that people had doubts about my physical condition because in recent years I have had a few physical problems,” he told Mundo Deportivo.
“But since November 2016 I have not had any more problems and I’ve been feeling good for a year.
“I know I have a reputation as a player made of glass, but I have managed to overcome that. Now I am demonstrating that I can be without injuries for a long time and I hope to keep it that way.”
He added: “I always believed in my ability but you never know how things are going to go because I had not had continuity at Barca.
“I knew I had the ability to play for Barca but in previous years, due to injuries, I had not been able to show what I am capable of.
“Luckily, in the last few weeks I’ve been able to prove it and I’m very happy about that.”
Barca’s win in Madrid gave them a nine-point lead at the top of the table over Atletico, while Zinedine Zidane’s side are 14 back in fourth.
However, talk of the title being a formality for Barca has been dismissed by the central defender.
“No, the league is not yet won,” said Vermaelen.
“It’s a big advantage, but we have not yet reached the halfway point of the season.”