Madrid: Barcelona say they have decided to rest Lionel Messi and six other top players for Wednesday's domestic cup match against third division Alaves.
Coach Tito Vilanova decided not to play Messi, goalie Victor Valdes, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, and Jordi Alba, for the return match at Camp Nou. Barcelona won 3-0 away in the first match.
Vilanova justified his decision to leave Messi out just as the Argentinian star nears German legend Gerd Mueller's all-time calendar record of 85 goals set in 1972.
Messi has 82 so far in 2012.
"Messi does not play just to reach the record," the Barca coach said. "If he did, he would have asked me if he could play this Cup tie."
Spanish forward David Villa rejoins the squad after being sidelined for two weeks with an ankle injury picked up in the 3-1 home win over Zaragoza on November 17.
Five players from Barcelona's reserve team have been called up for Wednesday however -- Oier Olazabal, Cristian Tello, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Deulofeo, and Carles Planas.