Barca eye Messi goal record at Benfica
MADRID (AFP) –
Lionel Messi may reach a record 85 goals in a calendar year in Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Benfica but his team coach Tito Vilanova said that came second to Barcelona’s performance.
The Argentine ace, 25, has scored 84 goals in matches so far this year, one short of the record set by German player Gerd Mueller in 1972, and has the chance to match and even beat it when Barca host the Portuguese side.
“I don’t think that is an aim in itself,” Vilanova told a news conference on Tuesday.
“We have to play as naturally as possible so there will be a good chance for him to beat it. But the most important thing on Wednesday is the match.”
Vilanova chose to rest six regulars — Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Jordi Alba, Javier Mascherano and Pedro Rodriguez — for Wednesday’s match, the last in the qualifying group which Barca has already won.
He left them out of the squad in favour of six players from the reserve team but kept Messi.
“Messi already had a rest last week,” Vilanova said. “The more he plays, the better he feels. So I included him in the group, not because of the record, but because when he plays a Champions League match, he is in heaven.”
Benfica are fighting to qualify for the quarter finals from the group, alongside Celtic who play Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.