Jens Lehmann believes some typically German football will ensure VfB Stuttgart give FC Barcelona a run for their money as their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie kicks off on home soil.
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Thrilled to still be playing at the "highest level", goalkeeper Jens Lehmann fancies VfB Stuttgart's chances of ousting first knockout round rivals FC Barcelona, even though he admits: "We are huge outsiders."
At 40, the Essen native boasts the kind of experience few can match. He has appeared in a FIFA World Cup semi-final and a UEFA European Championship final with Germany, plus a UEFA Champions League showpiece with Arsenal FC, but Europe's top club competition is still special to him.
"These games are played at the highest possible level," he said. "Every team in the Champions League is a top side when it comes to technique and tactics. This is the highest level there is in world football – even higher than the national teams since they are not as well-rehearsed as club sides."
If club football is tougher than international football, then there can be no more challenging opponents than Barça. Lehmann remembers the European champions only too well from his UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2006, which was cut short by a red card 18 minutes into Arsenal's 2-1 loss in Paris. Meeting the Blaugrana again, though, will not be harrowing for Lehmann. "You cannot really compare those two games," he said. "These are two entirely different teams and that was a final."
If anything, Josep Guardiola's current crop are more fearsome opponents than the side Lehmann faced with Arsenal, but the goalkeeper sees no reason to be daunted. "We are huge outsiders but we are also a German side," he said. "We have a special style and from my long career I know that our qualities will allow us to give them a difficult match."
Taking a positive result to Camp Nou for the second leg on 17 March is therefore the mission, yet whatever happens the return encounter will represent a personal milestone for Lehmann. "Barcelona's is the last big stadium I have not played at, but I think I can contain my excitement for the three weeks until we play there," he concluded with a grin.