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Dec 11, 2012

Messi to face Cordoba

Lionel Messi looks set to get another chance to add his record tally of calendar year goals after he was included in Barcelona's strong travelling squad for Wednesday evening's Copa del Rey last-16 first leg at Segunda Division Cordoba.

• Blog: Torpedo Messi makes history

Andres Iniesta, Victor Valdes and Adriano Correia have been rested for the game but Messi and fellow regulars Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol are making the trip to Andalucia.

Coach Tito Vilanova said that he had kept changes to a minimum as he expected a tough game at the Nuevo Arcangel.

"It will be a difficult game, and I am not just saying that," Vilanova said. "Some regulars have had a rest in recent weeks. All our players want to play. Iniesta could play but I want him to be fresh for the game against Atletico Madrid (in La Liga on Sunday evening)."

Cordoba's players celebrated wildly after knocking out Real Sociedad in the last round, setting up a chance to take on Messi, Xavi and company. Vilanova claimed it was easier for Barca to play against top-flight rivals who they meet twice a season than face highly-motivated lower-tier teams.

"I would prefer to play against a Primera side," he said. "For them, it is the game of the year. Cordoba have not played against Barca for 40 years. We cannot think about going there and winning easily. There is not so much difference between teams in the two divisions."

Vilanova is still expected to rotate his squad for the game, with David Villa, Thiago Alcantara, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Song, Dani Alves, Marc Bartra and reserve goalkeeper Jose Pinto among those who could come in.

Villa will likely be eager to start, after some eyebrows raised in Catalonia when Sanchez was introduced ahead of Spain's record international goalscorer after Cesc Fabregas pulled a hamstring during Sunday night's 2-1 win at Real Betis.

The Catalan coach said he understood Villa might be frustrated, but he had a big squad full of quality players to choose from.

"A player of Villa's level will want to play in every game," he said. "We know where he comes from. There are times when, because of the system, he does not fit in. I cannot always play everyone. Many players can come in for Cesc. I will make a decision for each game."


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