Will Barça stumble against Stuttgart?

Cunning old goat that he is, Pep Guardiola has lowered expectations to such an extent that a Jens Lehmann hat-trick in a 3-0 defeat against Stuttgart on Tuesday would be a fine result for his Dream Boys.

The Barcelona boss’ press conferences post-Racing and pre-Stuttgart have contained more shrugs, sulks, tuts, and monosyllabic responses than La Liga Loca trying to explain the offside rule.

AS may have praised Barcelona’s “insulting superiority” over Saturday’s Cantabrian opponents, but Guardiola was having none of it – grumbling that the side “lacked rhythm” in the 4-0 win, gave the ball away too easily and were still in their apathetic Atlético Madrid funk.

Pep’s complaints have been echoed by Barcelona übermeister Johan Cruyff, who joins in what sports journalists love to describe as ‘mind games’ and writes in El Periódico that the Racing performance was “the worst under Pep Guardiola.”

The Dutchman sniffs that only one of the goals was fully deserved - that of Rafa Márquez - as the others were either defensive errors from Racing or a jammy deflection in Thiago’s case.

“Pep did appear to be the only culé who was not happy with the 4-0,” notes Joan Battle in Sport, responding to Cruyff’s criticism. “The players have been warned.”

Alexander Hleb, currently on loan at Stuttgart and enjoying another stunning post-Arsenal campaign of 19 league starts and zero goals, says that his current team have about a “10% chance” against Barcelona.

Jens Lehmann, meanwhile, is quite certain that the German side will prevail on the perfectly legitimate grounds that they are... well... German.

The goalkeeper’s expected inclusion in Stuttgart’s starting line-up has allowed Spanish TV to put together his best blunders over the years and his infamous in-match comfort break - all to a Charlie Chaplin-style soundtrack - ensuring that mad Lens is sure to play a blinder against Barcelona.

Does the goalie want a wee-wee?

Over in Capital City the obsession with all things Cristiano Ronaldo shows no sign of going away anytime soon.

La Liga Loca once asked a friend whether he thought a Spanish player could be openly gay in La Liga. His response was to literally shudder, shake his head in horror and declare that there is not a cheesecake’s chance in Maniche’s fridge that any Spanish footballer could ever be gay. Ever.

This is certainly not the case with Spain’s football journalists who collectively have the biggest of man crushes of Real Madrid’s Portuguese ponce.

(And for the purposes of full disclosure, La Liga Loca’s own metrosexual obsessions in recent years have been Fabio Cannavaro, Pep Guardiola and a current worryingly weird thing for Joaquín Caparrós).

AS have plastered a graphic of Ronaldo in Tuesday’s edition with a detailed muscle-by-muscle breakdown of the forward’s physical supremacy, with particular attention afforded to his groin.

“I call it ‘The Tomahawk’,” says the paper’s headline with Ronaldo discussing the name of his free-kick against Villarreal. But it could well refer to something completely different and just as precious to the Portuguese player.

Phwooar, etc

“Every day, his presence grows,” sighs Tuesday’s Marca as it skips through fields of petals. “Real Madrid have found in Cristiano Ronaldo a legendary footballer."

His other ‘legendary’ attributes of being preening, pouting, self-centred, sulky and to teamwork what Jesús Navas is to travel-writing grew ever stronger too on Monday, with footage broadcast of Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso squabbling over who would take the penalty with Madrid 5-2 up.

“Cris, let me take it,” pleaded the Spanish midfielder, “I haven’t scored yet.”

Eventually, Ronaldo relented, pouted like nobody’s business, walked off in a huff and ignored Alonso’s goal celebrations after he successfully converted the spot-kick.

CR9 – loved by the fans, adored by the media, hated by his team-mates. Except Kaká, probably.

I love you, man... click to watch

Professor Champions League previews Stuttgart-Barça (and Olympiacos-Bordeaux)

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