Barcelona, who are guaranteed to top Group E regardless of tonight’s result, face Stuttgart who will finish bottom even with a victory at Camp Nou.
Despite the unusual circumstances, Barcelona assistant coach Johan Neeskens (speaking in the absence of the suspended Frank Rijkaard) is confident the game will be as competitive as ever.
“I know German sides very well and they don’t know how to treat a competitive game like a friendly,” he said. “One example I recall is when at Ajax we organised a testimonial match for the end of Johan Cruyff’s wonderful career. Bayern Munich were the guests and they took it in such a friendly spirit that they won 8-0!”
Neeskens confirmed that both Deco and Samuel Eto’o who have recently returned from injury, will be involved in an unfamiliar arcelona line-up.
“Our intention is to rest Víctor Valdes and Lionel Messi while ensuring valuable time for returning players like Deco and Samuel Eto’o,” he said. “Hopefully the lack of pressure will lead to a wonderful open game, which is rare because our opponents so often come to defend at Camp Nou.”
Stuttgart coach Armin Veh is keen to focus the positives, despite a torrid qualifying campaign.
“This is a chance for me to assess my players and how they react to a particular challenge,” he said. “Of course it is disappointing to arrive at Camp Nou with no competitive value to the game, but I’ll expect to see my team show pride, enthusiasm and commitment.”
Veh is without Mario Gomez because of a chest infection and, with Cacau tearing shoulder ligaments in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat of Wolfsburg, his striking options are limited to Ewerthon and Ciprian Marica. Andreas Beck is also absent with a knee injury while Serdar Tasci (tonsillitis) and Sami Khedira (thigh) are both struggling to be fit.
“I guess most of them want the kudos of playing at Camp Nou, but I’ll look each of them in the eye and know which of them is telling me a little lie and who is fit,” added Veh. “I’ll pick a team to go out and play with some joy because this is, after all, a great chance to take on the best footballing side in Europe.”