Football

Lionel Messi must be rested for the Champions League

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As Barcelona prepare to take on APOEL Nicosia in their penultimate Champions League group game, Luis Enrique is left with one or two interesting decisions to make.

What is, with the greatest of respect to APOEL, the least challenging of their remaining fixtures, could also provide the most problems. The match is sandwiched between the La Liga fixtures against Sevilla and Valencia and with qualification already assured, there is enough to suggest that this is a game where Enrique can tinker.

Changes

We could well expect to see a number of players on the periphery of the first team and some youngsters. However, if the experiment backfires and Barca don't get the result that they hope, then first place in the table, and with it a potentially easier round of 16 tie, goes up in smoke.

At least by securing the win, Enrique has Barca's destiny in their own hands. On the face of it therefore it's far from the "dead rubber" that many suggest.

History

A side issue, but a hot topic nonetheless, is another shot at football history for Lionel Messi.

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Whilst everyone expected Cristiano Ronaldo to be the first to surpass Raul's 71 goals in Champions League history, Messi became the first to at least tie the record and can potentially become the new outright record holder before Ronaldo steps back on the pitch again.

The Argentinian has often said that personal accolades mean nothing to him so tonight's game is the perfect chance for him to make good on his word.

If wholesale changes will upset the equilibrium of the team, then a carefully considered omission of one or two players should easily be covered. Barcelona have more than enough attacking options to cater for the loss of Messi, allowing him to rest before what is likely to be one of the Blaugrana's more tricky away league fixtures this season.

Bench Messi?

The reality is that Messi will want to play and will want to get the record, despite what he might say in public. Yet if Enrique has anything about him as a manager, he will take the opportunity to leave his star man at home.

We shouldn't forget that it's only been a week since he had to play two meaningless friendlies for his national team in England. The business end of the season is when clubs need to their best players to be fit and firing.

Given that Barcelona would expect to be in the mix for most of the silverware available, they will need their best exponents available. Lionel Messi has played almost non stop for the last few years and he needs to rest, plain and simple. 

If he doesn't, Barcelona may well come to regret it.

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Topics:
UEFA Champions League
Lionel Messi
Football
Barcelona

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