FC Barcelona assistant coach Johan Neeskens is looking forward to a "wonderful open game" as VfB Stuttgart visit, with Armin Veh hoping his side "play with joy".
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Matchday 6 brings one of the more unusual fixtures FC Barcelona have faced in their prestigious UEFA Champions League history – with the Spanish side certain to top Group E regardless of the result against a VfB Stuttgart team who will finish bottom even with a victory at Camp Nou.
Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard will watch from the stands having been sent from the touchline during the 2-2 draw at Olympique Lyonnais on Matchday 5, leaving his assistant Johan Neeskens in charge. The latter Dutchman is confident the game will be as competitive as ever, never mind the group situation, saying: "I know German sides very well and they don't know how to treat a competitive game like a friendly. One example I recall is when at [AFC] Ajax we organised a testimonial match for the end of Johan Cruyff's wonderful career. [FC] Bayern München were the guests and they took it in such a friendly spirit that they won 8-0!"
'Wonderful open game'
With Deco having returned to the Barcelona lineup as a substitute in Sunday's 2-1 Primera División win against RC Deportivo La Coruña after six weeks out with a thigh problem, and with Samuel Eto'o having played just twice this term due to a similar injury, Neeskens believes both players will take another step on the road to full fitness against Stuttgart. "Our intention is to rest Víctor Valdés 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."
'Pride, enthusiasm and commitment'
Rijkaard may be unable to give the pre-match and half-time team talks, or to sit in the dugout, but his opposite number Armin Veh has plenty of problems of his own despite the 3-2 triumph over Rangers FC that arrested a four-match losing streak in the UEFA Champions League. The Stuttgart coach, however, is keen to accentuate the positives, explaining: "This is a chance for me to assess my players and how they react to a particular challenge. 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."
'Play with joy'
Veh is deprived of Mario Gómez because of a chest infection and, with Cacau tearing shoulder ligaments in Saturday's 3-1 Bundesliga defeat of VfL Wolfsburg, his only striking options are Ewerthon and Ciprian Marica. Andreas Beck is also absent with a knee injury while Serdar Tasci (tonsillitis) and Sami Khedira (thigh) are both struggling – even so, Veh has already decided how he will select his team. "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. 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."