First place is up for grabs in Group F of the Champions League on Wednesday, and it’ll go to either Barcelona or Paris-Saint Germain.
Although the French champions beat Barcelona 3-2 in Paris without Zlatan Ibrahimovic in September, both teams have already qualified for the second round. Barcelona, a four-time European champion, hasn’t failed to finish at the top of its group since 2006-07.
“Our idea is to go out looking to win just like in every game, so we won’t need to change our plans,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “But it’s true that we face a team that has the same aspirations as we do. They are one of the candidates to win it all. And with Ibra back they will be even more dangerous in attack.”
Also in Group F, Ajax hosts Cypriot side APOEL needing a draw to finish third and qualify for the Europa League.
Here are some more things to know about Wednesday’s matches:
THREE TIMES THREE
Shattering record after record, Lionel Messi has also scored hat tricks in three of his last four matches.
The first against Sevilla gave Messi the Spanish league’s all-time scoring record. He followed that with another trio of goals at APOEL to become the top scorer in the history of the Champions League.
And the Argentine heads into the match against PSG after scoring three against crosstown rival Espanyol in a 5-1 rout on Sunday, taking him past the 400-goal mark for Barcelona.
He now has 74 goals in the Champions League, 256 in the Spanish league and 402 overall for Barcelona, all of which are records.
Messi will be missing his partner on the right flank, back Dani Alves, who is suspended for this game.
After Chelsea lost last weekend in England, PSG is the only unbeaten side in Europe’s biggest leagues.
PSG hasn’t played sparkling football, but the individual qualities of its creative players have made up for its collective inadequacies so far.
Ibrahimovic, who played for Barcelona in 2009-10, scored twice in a 2-1 comeback over Nantes on Saturday. Edinson Cavani, meanwhile, has netted eight goals in his last 10 matches.
“PSG is the last unbeaten team and it’s a pleasure,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “You need to wait until the end to assess a season, but I’m sure there will be better days. I’m optimistic we will continue to take points, but with style.”
FIGHT FOR THIRD
APOEL has scored only once so far in group play and sits in last place.
That single goal gave the Mediterranean team a draw at home against Ajax, and now it needs to better that result to claim a ticket to the Europa League.
Ajax will be missing Iceland striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, out with torn left ankle ligaments. Poland forward Arek Milik will likely lead the attack.