Weakened Barcelona side can still beat Benfica, says Vilanova

The Barca boss has chosen to rest a number of senior players after the club secured qualification for the last 16, but he believes his team can still beat the Portuguese side.
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has refuted claims that his side will not be competitive when it faces Benfica on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League, despite a number of senior players sitting out the encounter.

Vilanova has chosen to rest the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas for the Group G encounter with his side already through to the next round, but he claimed that his side will still be trying to win and deny the Portuguese side a chance of reaching the knockout stages.

"We will present a competitive team. It's an important game, because we are still representing the club," Vilanova said at a press conference. "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 goalscoring 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. Vilanova explained that 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. 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 Benfica.

"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."

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