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Vilanova confident of strong showing

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova says his team will be competitive against Benfica on Wednesday despite missing several senior players.

Vilanova has chosen to rest the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas for matchday six, but he claimed Barca will still be trying to win and deny their Portuguese opponents a chance of reaching the knockout stages.

Barca are already through to the last 16, with Benfica and Celtic vying for second spot.

“We will present a competitive team. It’s an important game because we are still representing the club,” he said.

“It’s the Champions League and there are teams that are still playing for qualification.

“It’s a Champions League match and we will try to make the best of it. A Champions League match is always important.”

The match could see Lionel Messi surpass Gerd Muller’s record for goal-scoring in a calendar year, after he took his tally to 84 strikes for club and country in 2012 in the 5-1 win against Athletic Bilbao.

And Vilanova said the Argentina captain is raring to go as he chases yet another landmark moment in his remarkable career.

“Leo rested last week against Alaves in the cup but he always wants to play and where better than in this environment,” he said.

“I’m excited for him to play and for us it is always better.”

David Villa completed his return from injury with his first full 90 minutes for the first team against Alaves on Wednesday, but Vilanova refused to say if the striker would get another full match under his belt against Jorge Jesus’ side.

“He looks good,” Vilanova said.

“He only played a full match once and he is still not quite fully fit. During the minutes that he has played he has done well and has scored goals.

“During the year there many matches and he is a very important player for us.”

Tue 4 Dec, 2012
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