Fresh from a brilliant display in the league on Sunday night against Valencia, Barcelona welcome Stuttgart to the Nou Camp tonight for the return fixture of their knockout stage tie. After drawing 1-1 in Germany, Barcelona have the advantage of progressing to the quarter final in virtue of the away goal rule.
Pep will be hoping that his star player Messi will give another classic performance that will ensure a quarter final berth. Barcelona are currently second in the La Liga standings and although they are level on points with Real Madrid , they have an inferior goal difference. If you watched the first leg then you would know that Stuttgart is not a team to be Underestimated. In fact, Barcelona were lucky to come out of Germany with a draw.
The Catalans head into this game on the back of added pressure as they will be the only remaining Spanish representatives in the competition. Sevilla bowed out last night after succumbing to a rare 2-1 home defeat to Russian side CSKA Moscow. A blunder from their goalie Andres Palop is what sealed their fate and Barcelona will be hoping that Valdez will bring his A game tonight.
Of their last 5 games, Barcelona have won 3 and drawn 2 while Stuttgart have won 2 drawn 2 and lost 1. Going by these records, it is not hard to tell wo has the advantage. After his gamble with Henry paid off, Guardiola is expected to field a 4-3-3 formation tonight. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back in the squad after sitting out Sunday’s game through suspension. He will partner Messi and Henry in attack.
Barca’s midfield will include: Iniesta, Busquets and Xavi. Carles Puyol will be in the heart of defense partnered by Pique while Dani Alves will be on the right and Maxwell on the left.
CSKA Moscow will play with a squad made up largely of players that featured in the first leg with only two changes coming in defense with defenders Matthieu Delpierre and Stefan Celozzi expected to play. The Russians will use the traditional 4-4-2 formation with Lehman between the posts, Celozzi, Tasci, Delpierre and Molinaro will be in defense while their midfield will be made up of Gebhart, Kuzmanovic, Khedira and Helb. Cacua and Pogrebnyak will be in attack.
I see Barca winning this one 2-1 although the strangest things do happen in football.