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Gross demanding brains and brawn

They may be "the best club side in the world" but VfB Stuttgart coach Christian Gross believes a "very brave" and "very clever" performance from his team could upset FC Barcelona on Tuesday.

Gross demanding brains and brawn
Gross demanding brains and brawn ©UEFA.com

VfB Stuttgart coach Christian Gross regards first knockout round opponents FC Barcelona as "the best club side in the world", but he has warned the European champions his team will have "absolutely nothing to lose" in Tuesday's opening leg. That message seems to have got through too, with Barça's Josep Guardiola approaching the encounter praising the home side's "German qualities".

Christian Gross, Stuttgart coach
We're looking forward to these two games. 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. 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.

Pep Guardiola, Barcelona coach
Just scraping through against [Olympique Lyonnais] in the round of 16 last season should be warning enough for us. 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.

Team news
Martin Lanig (cruciate knee ligament), Arthur Boka (dislocated shoulder)
Suspended: none
Misses next match if booked:

• Boka dislocated his shoulder in training and is not expected to return for a month.

• Sami Khedira had been suffering with a thigh injury, but Gross confirmed that he is "100% fit and will play".

Seydou Keita (right hamstring tear), Eric Abidal (groin strain)
Zlatan Ibrahimović (ankle), Xavi Hernández (right thigh), Daniel Alves (right calf)
Misses next match if booked:
Carles Puyol

• Yaya Touré played on Saturday following a fortnight out with a left thigh tear.

• Guardiola will wait until the day of the match before making a final decision on Ibrahimović, Xavi and Alves.

Weekend results
20/02/10 1. FC Köln 1-5 Stuttgart
(Schorch 44; Cacau 13 31 38 74, Pogrebnyak 70)

• Cacau, replacing the suspended Ciprian Marica for his first start in 2010 after recovering from a thigh problem, scored four goals to leave Stuttgart in ninth.

• Stuttgart now have six wins from seven games, though only one clean sheet in 11 outings.

20/02/10 Barcelona 4-0 Real Racing Club
(Iniesta 7, Henry 29, Márquez 34, Thiago 84)

• With five changes to their starting XI, Barcelona bounced back from their first defeat of the Liga season at Club Atlético de Madrid the previous weekend to secure Guardiola's 71st win in his 100th game in charge. He has lost only ten.

• Andrés Inietsa marked his 300th competitive Barcelona appearance with his first goal since his timely strike at Chelsea FC in last season's UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

• Barcelona recorded home and away wins against Stuttgart when the clubs met in the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2007/08. Puyol and Lionel Messi scored in a 2-0 victory in Germany and although Antonio Da Silva struck early for Stuttgart at Camp Nou, Giovani Dos Santos, Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho ensured a 3-1 home victory. The Catalan side finished top of the group, with VfB fourth.

• Barcelona's last six trips to Germany have yielded four wins and two draws. They are also unbeaten in nine away UEFA Champions League fixtures since their 2007/08 semi-final loss at Manchester United FC.

Team Ties
• Gross came up against Barcelona in last season's group stage with previous club FC Basel 1893 and lost 5-0 at home before his charges drew 1-1 at Camp Nou.

• Hleb is on a season-long loan at Stuttgart from Barcelona, having made 19 league appearances for the Catalan side in 2008/09. He and Jens Lehmann were in the Arsenal FC team that lost to Barcelona in the 2006 final, as indeed was Thierry Henry.

Did you know?
• Guardiola's first four appearances in Europe's premier club competition as a player came against German opposition in FC Hansa Rostock and 1. FC Kaiserslautern in autumn 1991. Barça, that season's eventual winners, won both home legs but lost both away.

Read more on the match in the official UEFA Champions League press kit.

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