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Barcelona look to write Greek tragedy

sports Updated: Nov 23, 2010 23:56 IST

Barcelona will look to star forward Lionel Messi to maintain his sensational form in front of goal as the Spanish giants attempts to seal a place in the Champions League knock stage this week with a game to spare.

Messi is his team's leading scorer in Europe with five goals from four Group D games, including two against Panathinaikos — the side Barcelona plays on Wednesday — in a 5-1 win on the opening matchday. He has also scored 10 goals in his last five Primera Liga matches, three of which came in Barca's 8-0 thrashing of Almeria on Saturday.

Defending champion Inter Milan, Tottenham and Manchester United are among the teams also expected to be in the tournament's knockout stage at the conclusion of Matchday 5.

Barcelona has won six matches in a row in the Spanish league, scoring 23 goals in the process, but it has found things tougher in the Champions League. After a convincing opening win over Panathinaikos, the three-time winners have won just one of their last three matches _ and have leaned heavily on Messi to get them out of trouble in away draws at Rubin Kazan and FC Copenhagen.

Inter Milan, without a win in four Serie A matches, will seek some respite in the Champions League when it hosts FC Twente in Group A knowing a win will seal progress into the round of 16. Inter is in the midst of a crisis and club president Massimo Moratti had to reiterate his support for under-pressure coach Rafael Benitez at the weekend. "We absolutely have to win on Wednesday and keep our heads high," Inter captain Javier Zanetti said. "We will do everything to win."

Inter is level on seven points with Tottenham following its 3-1 defeat at White Hart Lane three weeks ago.

Spurs, who will also qualify with a win, are being talked about in the British media as dark horses for the league after its 3-2 come-from-behind win at local rival Arsenal on Saturday. They will be in confident mood heading into Wednesday’s match at home to the group's bottom club Werder Bremen. In Group C, fit-again Wayne Rooney will start for United, which visits Scottish champion Rangers.