Barcelona is already through to the elimination stage of Champions League, but the final matches in Group B will determine whether Benfica or Celtic’s European ambitions continue.
The two clubs have seven points each, while Barça is comfortably ahead with 12. Group G’s other side, Spartak Moscow, has managed to earn just three points.
The Scots will take on the disappointing Russian club, and need a victory to stay alive. While Barcelona has nothing to play for, Lionel Messi has multiple sources of motivation.
Here is everything you need to know about this match and Messi’s inspiration.
Where: Estadio Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
When: Wednesday, December 5, 2:30 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox Deportes
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
Biggest Storyline: Lionel Messi and Gerd Müller
Win or lose, Barca will win this group, but Messi has a vested interest in performing well in this match. ESPN’s Dermot Corrigan reported that while stars such as Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez will all be rested, Messi is on the team sheet and likely to start.
The superstar currently has an incredible 84 goals in this calendar year, putting him one shy of Gerd Müller’s all-time record. Making history will be on Messi’s mind and he will be active and intent on scoring goals in this match.
Barcelona Player to Watch: Lionel Messi
No surprises here. He is the best player in the world and on the verge of breaking a four-decades-old record. Every spectators’ eyes should be on him throughout the match.
The last time Messi was in contention to break one of Müller’s records was this past spring as he neared the German’s mark for most goals in a European season. The Barça star moved into history in spectacular fashion as he scored a hat trick against Malaga. Watch for a similarly sensational performance in this match.
Benfica Player to Watch: Oscar Cardozo
While Cardozo has mostly come off the bench in Benfica’s Champions League campaign, the team will need every bit of attacking talent it can muster in this match.
The veteran striker has been the club’s most reliable goal-scorer over the years, and he will undoubtedly be used at some point in this game. The crafty centre-forward is Benfica’s best hope to produce a goal.
Key Matchup: Barça’s Youngsters vs. Experienced Benfica Players
While Corrigan notes that established players such as Messi, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Carles Puyol have been included in the squad, there will still be plenty of Barcelona players not used to such a grand stage.
If Benfica can exploit the inexperience of Barça’s raw talents, it will be able to get a favorable result. The veterans like Cardozo must perform well in this match.
What They’re Saying
Craig Swan, of Scottish newspaper The Daily Record, quoted Messi discussing another source of inspiration for Messi to do what he does best. The Argentine discussed Celtic’s fans and said:
We knew what they were going to be like in Glasgow. But the way they were in Barcelona after they had just lost in the way they did was amazing. I have never seen anything like that before. We have not always been supportive of the way that Celtic try and play football. However, their fans deserve the knockout stages of the Champions League as I think the competition would be a quieter place without them.”
Prediction: Barcelona 3, Benfica 1
Even Barcelona’s secondary option are world-class talents and they will win this match. Messi will get a goal and tie Müller’s record.