Barcelona host Portuguese giants Benfica at home in the Nou Camp on Wednesday, having already qualified as group winners. The match might not have any kind of significance to them as whatever the result might be, they will still progress as champions from the group, Benfica, on the other hand is fighting tooth and nails with Scottish side Celtic as they both aim for a top two finish to progress into the next round of the UEFA Champions League.
Both Celtic and Benfica are tied on seven points each and with Celtic taking on the relatively weak whipping boys of the group in the form of Spartak Moscow, Benfica have a monumental task on their hands of upsetting the pioneers of tiki-taka football and that too, in their own back yard. Barcelona have been in blistering form throughout the season and expect the loss in the UEFA Champions League to Celtic in Scotland and the home draw with Real Madrid, they have won all their matches so far and are already 11 points ahead of Madrid, which is being seen as almost unbeatable at this early part of the season.
Manager Tito Vilanova is expected to give some of his star players some rest as he looks ahead to the clash with second placed Atletico Madrid in the Spanish league on the 16 th of December. Star Argentine forward Lionel Messi is expected to start the game as he needs just one goal to over German legend Gerd Muller for the record of most number of goals scored in a calendar year. However, the likes of midfield kingpins Xavi and Iniesta are not expected to feature with Cristian Tello and the other la Masia graduates expected to be given a start.
Benfica, on the other hand, do not have such luxuries to afford and they will have to go all out for a win and Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo is expected to lead the line with Argentine playmaker Nicolas Gaitan entrusted with the duty of pulling the strings in midfield. However, even without their star players, Barcelona will be no pushovers and the Portuguese champions will have to fight very hard and also depend on the Catalans making a mistake and also pounce on every opportunity they get, because chances will be very and far between, as manager Jorge Jesus has already pointed out in his media conferences ahead of the game.