Tito Vilanova denies including Lionel Messi for the Benfica game only for Gerd Muller’s record, whilst promising that Barcelona will do their best in the fixture.
However, for Vilanova, the reasons for including Messi are nothing to do with his being one goal away from equalling Muller’s 85-goal record tally for a calendar year.
“Leo was rested last week for the Copa del Rey match. He has not been included in this game just for the record,” the tactician stated to reporters today.
“We know that he always wants to play, where he is best, in his natural habit, to compete. This is a Champions League match and he will be looking forward to it. We are better if he is on the field, he makes us stronger.
“I’ve seen pictures of Muller, but I did not see him play live because I was small. I heard a lot of what he did with Germany.
“I do not think that his record should be an objective. It should be a natural thing, not something that is forced.
“If we are all outstanding, it will be a little easier. We have not set it as a goal. The important thing is to focus on the game.”
That game is the visit of Benfica in the sixth round of the group stages of the Champions League. Barca have already assured top spot, but are not taking their opponents lightly.
“Benfica are playing for their position in the next round and will come into the game to attack. The team will be there to try and win the game.
“We are representing Barcelona and even if it were a friendly game we would try everything to win.
“We are in great form, but we have to maintain it. Certainly there are things to improve. Who will I play? There are players coming back from injury that tomorrow’s game would be perfect for them to pick up the pace in.
“There are also players from the second team and youth side who can prove themselves for the future. I see highly motivated players for this game.”