Lionel Messi chasing new record at APOEL
PARIS (AP) — After becoming the Spanish league’s all-time leading scorer over the weekend, Lionel Messi is chasing another milestone in the Champions League.
The Argentina forward is even with Raul Gonzalez’s all-time record of 71 Champions League goals, and he could better that on Tuesday when Barcelona travels to Cypriot club APOEL on Tuesday in Group F.
“He doesn’t stop breaking records,” Barcelona defender Jordi Alba said. “It’s a privilege to have Messi as a teammate.”
Barcelona has already qualified for the second round while APOEL is last in the group and looking for its first win.
Also, unbeaten leader Paris Saint-Germain hosts Ajax, with the Dutch side now aiming for a third-place finish and a place in the Europa League.
Here are some things to know ahead of Tuesday’s matches:
Barcelona overlooked Luis Suarez’s checkered past and his most recent biting ban when it signed him for his scoring prowess. But the Premier League’s top scorer last season has so far only excelled at helping others to score and is still looking for his first goal for Barcelona.
Suarez has assisted on four goals in five appearances, and the Uruguay forward will surely be eager to finally get his debut goal against APOEL.
That is unless coach Luis Enrique decides to rest him and some other first-choice starters with Barcelona facing four matches in a 16-day span.
Barcelona has a tough visit to Valencia in the Spanish league looming on Sunday. It then starts its Copa del Rey campaign next week before hosting Espanyol in a city derby. And after that, PSG arrives on Dec. 10 for a match that could decide which team claims top spot in the group and more favorable seeding going into the second round.
“We need to go forward game by game,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “We play in the Champions League first and have to take it step by step. We must make a big effort to win them all.”
Although only the most dedicated fans would consider betting on Ajax’s chances of beating PSG, the French champions’ injury worries might give a slight chance to the Dutch side.
Midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Thiago Motta were replaced during PSG’s 3-2 win over Metz in the French league because of calf problems, while David Luiz, Lucas and Marco Verratti were not fit enough to play.
“This is what happens to clubs who have a lot of international players. You need to be able to deal with it,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic started for the first time in two months against Metz following a heel injury, but the former Ajax striker — who has not scored for PSG since a hat trick at the end of August — said he needs some more time to play at his best again.
Ajax, which has scored four goals in four of its last five games, will be without the suspended Joel Veltman, who has been replaced by Stefano Denswil in the squad.
Ibrahimovic, who scored 35 goals in 74 matches in the Dutch league from 2001-04, won’t be the only PSG player facing his old club. Defenders Gregory Van der Wiel and Maxwell are also former Ajax players.
“It is always special for me to play against Ajax. I learnt so many things there. My time in Amsterdam allowed me to become a man,” said Maxwell, who played under current Ajax coach Frank De Boer.
LOOKING FOR GOALS
A goalless draw against second-place Apollon Limassol helped APOEL remain at the top of the Cypriot championship this weekend. But APOEL has now gone 275 minutes without a goal, the team’s longest goal drought since February 2012.
APOEL coach Giorgos Donis said a lack of quality finishing is hampering his team.
“They didn’t have the self-confidence required,” he said.
APOEL goes into the match against Barcelona still looking for its first win.