Champions league: Stuttgart vs. Barcelona

To bet on continuity or to integrate Ronaldhino into the starting eleven. This is an important decision that coach Frank Rijkaard has to make in Stuttgart, although it won’t be the only one. The loss of Yayá Touré for a month because of a muscular strain forces the Dutch manager to find a substitute for a player who has been one of Barca’s best players so far this season. The African is one of the keys to Barca’s great moment of form along with Andrés Iniesta and –mainly- Leo Messi. Iniesta has occupied the place of Ronaldhino on the left wing and the Argentinean has displaced him in the idol rankings with the help of his amazing play and great goals.

Forcing the entrance of Ronaldhino –whose game hasn’t been to the level we all know-  into the eleven and leaving out Iniesta would be unfair and could create  problems for Rijkaard, who will probably try to play al three from the beginning. If Ronaldhino plays he would force Iniesta to hold back his position to the center of the pitch to accompany Deco, with Xavi the one being sacrificed since everything points to Márquez occupying  the position of Touré. The triangle of Deco, Iniesta and Xavi could form the center of an alternative without Márquez, but this combination was too fragile last season without the presence of a defensive player.

The other option that the Dutchman has is to grant Márquez the midfield and to decide between Ronaldhino and Iniesta. Henry, after his hat-trick against Levante, will be next to the great Messi. In defence, the only doubt is Milito, who would partner Charles Puyol for the first time in the center of the defence, while the left and right will be for Oleguer and Abidal.

Barcelona are looking to extend their lead in group E after their three-nil win over Lyon. The German reigning champions come into this game from losing their first Champions league match to Glasgow Rangers and also losing two goals to one against Rostock in Bundesliga. Mario Gómez, their star man, is German with a Spanish father, is Stuttgart’s top scorer and star of a team that boasts players of certain international fame like the Turk Bastürk, the Rumanian Marica, and the Mexicans Osorio and Pardo. The good news for Stuttgart is that they haven’t lost at their Gottlieb Daimler stadium for over a year, but I have the impression this could change.

Prediction: Away win (1-2)

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