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Nov 27, 2012

Messi rested for Alaves

Lionel Messi will have one less game to hunt down Gerd Muller's calendar year goals record as he is to be rested for Barcelona's Copa del Rey second leg against Alaves at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

• Blog: Youth XI shoots Barca clear

Barca boss Tito Vilanova has not called up Messi - who needs just three more goals to reach Muller's record of 85 set in 1972 - or Victor Valdes, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba for the game, which should be straightforward for the Catalans who won last month's first leg in Vitoria 3-0.

The decision to omit Messi and temporarily halt his attempts to break the record as soon as possible is not one that will play on his mind though, according to the Catalan coach.

"He has a chance to reach this record, but I do not think he is playing thinking about it," Vilanova said. "He is playing thinking about the team and trying to win the game. In the last game (4-0 v Levante on Saturday) he showed that when he was clear one on one with their goalkeeper but decided to pass to a teammate who was better positioned. If he was thinking about the record he would have asked me to play tomorrow."

Barca B kids Gerard Deulofeu, Oier Olazabal, Sergio Roberto and Marc Planas have been included in the squad for the game, alongside senior players eager for minutes including Jose Pinto and Alex Song and the recently returned from injury Thiago Alcantara, Adriano Correia and David Villa.

"Everyone in our squad, and those at Barca B, are prepared to play this game," Vilanova said. "We need to give some people a rest as they have played a lot of games in row. It is a good chance to see how some players react, those coming back from injury, like Thiago, and the youngsters."

Blaugrana fans will be particularly looking forward to seeing Deulofeu, 18, who made a brief substitute appearance in last week's 3-0 Champions League group win at Spartak Moscow, and then scored twice in Barca B's 4-1 Segunda Division win over freefalling Racing Santander on Sunday.

Vilanova said the winger was progressing well, but needed to work on his all-round game.

"It is natural that I talk to (Barca B coach) Eusebio about Deulofeu and about many other players as well," he said. "We discuss their behaviour on the pitch and off it as well. Deulofeu has progressed a lot, but he has things he can improve. There is a lot more to football than doing three or four spectacular things in a game."

Few observers give third tier Alaves a chance of overturning a three goal deficit in the game, but Vilanova said he did not see it that way.

"We are the reigning champions and must have respect for the competition and for Alaves," he said. "The tie is not over at all, everyone thought our game at Mallorca recently was over when we were 3-0 up. Then we conceded two quick goals and it was back on. That could happen again tomorrow. They will have the excitement of playing at the Camp Nou, with nothing to lose."

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