Lionel Messi will chase yet another record when the Champions League returns on Tuesday from a three-week break. The Argentine is poised to take sole possession of the competition’s all-time scoring record just three days after he rewrote the Spanish league’s record books. Messi’s brace in Barcelona’s 2-0 win at Ajax on November 5 pulled him level with Raul Gonzalez on 71 goals as the joint-top scorers for the Champions League. Messi now hopes to leave Raul behind when Barcelona visit Cypriot side APOEL in Group F on Tuesday. Breaking major records is what Messi does for a living. He will arrive in Cyprus fresh from his historic hat-trick on Saturday in Barcelona’s 5-1 defeat of Sevilla that left him with 253 Spanish league goals, two more than Telmo Zarra’s milestone of 251 goals in La Liga which had stood untouched since 1955.
And Messi will have the added pressure of Cristiano Ronaldo on his heels. Ronaldo has scored 70 Champions League goals and Real Madrid visits Basel in Group B on Wednesday. Madrid, the defending champions, and Barcelona have already qualified for the knockout rounds along with Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and FC Porto.
Manchester City will exit the competition at the group stage for a third time in four attempts unless the English champions beat Bayern and there is a winner in the game between CSKA Moscow and Roma on Tuesday. “We are lucky to still be in with a chance of qualifying because, with two points and two games left, normally you are out,” City midfielder Samir Nasri said. “Now is our chance. We have to take it and play with nothing to lose.”
Revenge on Atletico’s mind
It’s been bleak for Liverpool as well, after they lost three out of four games in Group B. Liverpool visit Ludogorets in Bulgaria on Wednesday needing a win and for Madrid to beat Basel so it can stay in the hunt for the next round.
Atletico Madrid will seek to avenge a 3-2 loss at Olympiakos in their first meeting when they host the Greek side on Wednesday with first place in Group A still at stake.
Juventus, meanwhile, visit Swedish side Malmo seeking a victory to set up a final group match against Atletico that could decide who go through first.”
Barcelona and PSG can also set up a decider to see who claim first place in Group F if Barcelona win and the French side beat visitors Ajax also on Tuesday.
While Ronaldo chases Messi, Luiz Adriano will be chasing Ronaldo. The Shakhtar Donetsk forward has already scored nine goals through the first four matches to equal Ronaldo’s record in the group phase in a single season. Luiz Adriano can top the Ballon d’Or winner’s mark with a goal against Athletic Bilbao in Group H on Tuesday. He already matched Messi’s feat of scoring five goals in one match earlier this season.
Bayer Leverkusen can make sure of a strong German showing in the next stage with a draw against Monaco on Wednesday. A win would ensure Leverkusen top Group C, which is completed by Zenit Saint Petersburg and Benfica. Schalke have a harder task when they host Chelsea in Group G on Tuesday. Chelsea can qualify with a win or a draw of two goals or more, while Schalke can go level with Chelsea on points at the top of the group.