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All eyes on Messi's record

The Catalan club, whose top spot in the pool is already assured, has, therefore, given several of his star men the night off.

Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Andres Iniesta — all included among the 40 candidates for UEFA’s Team of the Year — have been rested along with Cesc Fabregas and Pedro Rodriguez.


Lionel Messi. Pic/Getty Images

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Vilanova said, “Leo was rested last week against Alaves in the Copa del Rey. It’s not about records for goals — the main thing is to win. He is the same as always. He always wants to play and he is in his best habitat when he is playing. I’m excited that he plays, and for us it is always better.”

Benfica, runners-up to Porto in the Portuguese Liga last season but level on points with the champions at the top after 10 games this term, approach the game holding the upper hand over third-placed Celtic thanks to their superior head-to-head record.

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