Messi given another chance to reach Mueller's record

MADRID Tue Dec 4, 2012 9:15pm IST

Barcelona's Lionel Messi smiles on the grass after missing a chance to score a third goal during their Spanish first division soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

Barcelona's Lionel Messi smiles on the grass after missing a chance to score a third goal during their Spanish first division soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona December 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Gustau Nacarino

MADRID (Reuters) - Lionel Messi has another chance to reach Gerd Mueller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year after Tito Vilanova included him in Barcelona's squad to play Benfica in the Champions League.

The La Liga leaders have already qualified as the top side in Group G and Vilanova rested a number of first-choice regulars for Wednesday's game at the Nou Camp, but not the Argentine World Player of the Year.

"He rested last week in the King's Cup and we all know he always wants to play," Vilanova told a news conference on Tuesday.

Messi is just one goal short of former Germany and Bayern Munich striker Mueller's 40-year-old record with his tally of 84 goals for club and country in 2012.

"We need to be as natural as we can about this," Vilanova added. "Messi has the chance to achieve it and if we are all waiting expectantly for him to do it.

"He is keen to play and I think he is used to living with all this about him."

Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Javier Mascherano, Pedro, Jordi Alba and Cesc Fabregas were all rested from the squad and replaced with youngsters from the club's youth Academy.

"We have some players just back after injury and others from Barca B and we would like to see how they perform," Vilanova said. "I am sure the motivation will be good. They are professionals. Benfica are still playing to qualify for the last 16."

Benfica are second in the group, level on seven points with Celtic in third, but ahead due to their superior head-to-head record. Celtic host Spartak Moscow.

(Reporting by Mark Elkington, editing by John Mehaffey)

Cricket Tragedy

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Pele in ICU

Pele in ICU

Soccer great Pele in intensive care, condition improving - hospital  Full Article 

Pitch Invasion

Pitch Invasion

Tottenham's clash with Partizan halted by pitch invaders  Full Article 

Out of Action

Out of Action

Arsenal's Wilshere ruled out for three months.  Full Article 

Sociedad Home

Sociedad Home

Moyes wants 'excitement' in Sociedad home debut  Full Article 

Coach Sacked

Coach Sacked

Galatasaray sack former Italy coach Prandelli - reports  Full Article 

Europa League

Europa League

Feyenoord leave holders Sevilla facing final game drama  Full Article 

Formula One

Formula One

Hulkenberg to race F1 and Le Mans next year.  Full Article 

A Month in Prison

A Month in Prison

Brandao sentenced to a month in jail for headbutt.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage