SEVILLE (Sporting Alert) — Lionel Messi starts today for Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga clash against the inform Real Betis at Manuel Ruiz de Lopera.
Messi suffered a knee injury after a collision with the opposing goalkeeper in the latter part of the 0-0 Champions League draw with Benfica in midweek and had to be carried off the pitch.
The injury had left the Argentine international a major doubt for this contest, but a scan showed that the knock to the knee wasn’t as serious as first thought.
Messi practiced well with Barcelona in the past few days and head coach Tito Vilanova, after including him in his travelling squad, made the late decision to start his star forward.
Messi is just one goal away from equalling Gerd Mueller’s long standing record for most goals in a calendar year.
He currently has 84 goals, with Mueller’s 40-year-old mark standing at 85.
The Barcelona starting team also includes Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas.
Real Betis are on a good run, sitting fifth in the league and have beaten Real Madrid already this season.
Arsenal FC on loan striker Joel Campbell is amongst the starters for the home side.
Real Betis (4-2-3-1): Adrian, Nacho, Jose Dorado, Antonio Amaya, Javier Chica, Jose Canas, Benat Extebarria, Juan Carlos, Ruben Castro, Salva Sevilla, Joel Campbell.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Victor Valdes, Jordi Alba, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Adriano, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Pedro Rodriguez, Cesc Fabregas, Lionel Messi.