BARCELONA captain Carles Puyol admits his side could be in for a bad night if they underestimate the threat posed by in-form Stuttgart in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie tonight.
Barça make the trip to Germany having bounced back from their first league defeat of the season eight days ago against Atletico Madrid by thumping Racing Santander 4-0 on Saturday night. That was the Catalan giants’ sixth victory in seven league games, but tonight they will come up against a Stuttgart who are in just as good form.
Stuttgart may still be struggling down in ninth place in the Bundesliga but they too have won six of their last seven and at the weekend thrashed Cologne 5-1 away from home with Cacau netting four of his side’s goals.
When the draw was made back in December, Stuttgart were in the midst of a 10-match winless run in all competitions, but it is a different story now and a wary Puyol said: “They’re playing better now and they are a dangerous team.
“If we don’t go there focused, we could really have a bad time,” added Puyol.
Barça have struggled badly with absentees recently and the Champions League holders will again be without Seydou Keita and Eric Abidal for tonight’s match.
Key duo Xavi and Dani Alves have at least made the trip to Germany, but neither has yet been given the all-clear to return to action following injuries.
Full-back Alves has been absent for a month due to a calf problem while Xavi picked up a thigh injury during the defeat to Atletico that had been expected to keep the Spain international out for around 15 days.
Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was a late withdrawal ahead of Saturday’s win over Racing with an ankle problem, has also been included in a 20-man travelling squad in the hope he will be fit to feature.
Stuttgart coach Christian Gross is likely to be without left-back Arthur Boka for both meetings against Barça after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in training prior to the Cologne match that could keep him sidelined for a month.
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