First knockout round, first leg – kick-off 20:45 (CET)
Stuttgart coach Christian Gross believes a “very brave” and “very clever” performance from his team could upset Barcelona tonight.
Stuttgart coach Christian Gross regards first knockout round opponents Barcelona as “the best club side in the world”, but he says his team have nothing to lose and are capable of surprising the holders.
“We’re looking forward to these two games,” he said. “We know that we’re up against the best club side in the world and the utmost will be asked of us. It’s well known that teams rise to the occasion and that’s exactly what we have to do to get a good result ahead of the return match. We have to be highly focused, especially when we have possession, as there’s no other side as strong as they are when it comes to switching between attack and defence.
“We have absolutely nothing to lose. We’ll have to be very brave but very clever as well. That is the big difficulty here: the key will be a passionate but also a calm performance; everyone will be asked to put in a performance like he’s never put in before.
Gross will be without Martin Lanig and Arthur Boka, but he does have an ace up his sleeve in the form of Aleksander Hleb, who is currently on loan for Stuttgart from Barcelona, and has spoken to his coach about what to expect tonight.
“Aleksandr [Hleb] is of course highly motivated and looking forward to this encounter. Naturally, I have spoken with him about Barcelona’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola praised the home side’s “German qualities”.
“Just scraping through against [Lyon] in the round of 16 last season should be warning enough for us,” he said. “Many big clubs have made life difficult for themselves by not coping with their status as favourites in the round of 16. After all, we’re playing a German team with German qualities, and one enjoying an excellent run in the league.
“Christian Gross has achieved a lot here and he has quality in his squad. I saw some remarkable things in the video analysis. This is why we’ll have to find our rhythm quickly if we want to get a good result for the return leg.
“We’re happy to return to the European stage after such a long break. Given the way I know my players, I don’t need to worry about them taking Stuttgart too lightly. It’s a round of 16 match: Arsenal are almost out, Real are having problems with Lyon and Manchester [United] and Bayern are not in for an easy ride either.”
Guardiola is definitely without injured duo Seydou Keita and Eric Abidal and there are doubts over the fitness of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Xavi Hernandez and Daniel Alves.