Barcelona rotate But Messi chases on
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova will field a much-changed line-up for tonight’s final Champions League Group G game against Benfica – but there will be no rest for Lionel Messi as the prolific Argentina forward looks to make history.
Messi’s 83rd and 84th goals of 2012 on Saturday moved him within one goal of equalling Gerd Muller’s 1972 record of 85 in a calendar year.
The emphatic win over Athletic Bilbao helped Barca finish the weekend six points clear at the summit and made it their best ever start to the Spanish top flight.
Things could not have gone much more smoothly in Europe, either, with top spot in the group already assured.
Vilanova has, therefore, given several of his star men the night off. Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Andres Iniesta have been rested along with Cesc Fabregas and Pedro Rodriguez, while B team players Sergi Gomez, Carles Planas, Sergi Roberto, Rafinha, Gerard Deulofeu and Cristian Tello have been included in the 18-man squad. Messi, however, will feature against the Portuguese visitors.
Benfica head into the game well rested, having not played domestically since a 2-0 win over SC Olhanense on November 24th. They will be without injured midfielders Eduardo Salvio (ankle), Enzo Perez, Carlos Martins and Pablo Aimar for the game.