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Barcelona 4-0 Stuttgart: Magical Messi Inspires Brilliant Blaugrana Blitz (Agg: 5-1)

Barcelona 4-0 Stuttgart (Agg: 5-1) Lineups, Stats
UEFA Champions League Results, Fixtures

Champions Barcelona cruised into Friday's quarter-final draw with a comprehensive demolition of Stuttgart at Camp Nou.

A brace from the brilliant Lionel Messi, a magnificent team goal crafted by the Argentinian and finished by Pedro and a late strike by Bojan Krkic put Stuttgart to the sword in stunning style and truthfully it could have been much worse for the visitors as a rampant Catalan outfit served up a footballing treat.

Any signs of nerves or fear of an upset were never evident as Thierry Henry and Messi fired early strikes across the bow of Jens Lehmann and any doubts of the outcome of the tie were quickly eroded after just 13 minutes by a sublime solo strike of a standard few other than the mesmeric Messi could conjure up.

Racing at the heart of the German defence, he skipped and jinked his way into a shooting position before smashing the ball into the top left hand corner from about 20 yards as no less than four white shirts converged.

Despite the absence of midfield lynchpin Xavi, the hosts enforced their rhythmic one-touch passing style with fluid ease and although the visitors were organised and resolute at the back, the sheer quality of the Barca movement was inevitably going to carve its way through to Lehmann's goal again.

The second goal, which came nine minutes after the opener, was a magical team effort that saw the Blaugrana string together a flurry of inch perfect passes inside the Stuttgart half. A neat interchange involving Messi, Andres Iniesta and Pedro drew the attentions of the German rearguard sufficiently to allow Messi to lift a superb ball into the box for the run of Yaya Toure who pulled a low ball across the box from the left giving Pedro a simple tap-in.

Messi almost stole in again nipping the ball off Aliaksandr Hleb 20 yards out but inexplicably the referee blew for a foul against the Argentinian much to the relief of Die Roten.

When not in possession Barca, particularly through Iniesta and Pedro, displayed the kind of intensity and energy that made them champions last year, forcing the visitors into errors and regaining control of the ball.

Stuttgart had to throw caution to the wind after the break, committing men forward in search of a goal that would throw the contest wide open once again. That predictably left more space for the Blaugrana to expose and although the final ball was lacking in the initial stages it seemed inevitable that Lehmann would find himself with plenty to do.

Toure shaved the post from the edge of the box with a low drive after a brilliant cut back from Lionel Messi and if that was a warning, it wasn't heeded and the punishment was duly dished out on the hour mark, effectively putting the tie beyond all doubt.

Pedro blazed a trail down the right and cut the ball back to Dani Alves on the edge of the box who laid it to the feet of Messi with a crafty back heel and the Argentine swivelled on the D to shake off the presence of Timo Gebhart before firing home low to Lehmann's left to net goal number 29 of the season. A younger Lehmann may have stopped it but the ageing shot stopper wasn't up to the task on this occasion.

Lehmann and Georg Niedermeier managed successive attempts to deny the hat-trick, the 40-year-old with a fine one-handed save from a Messi header before the centre half did enough to intervene, blocking what would have been a awesome finish as Messi attempted an audacious chest and volley from Alves' deep cross.

What followed was typical of Barca's pomp as Messi drove the resulting corner 40 yards back across the park to Iniesta who floated in a heat-seeking cross for Alves but his header back across goal was a fraction beyond the waiting Henry as the creme de la creme of training ground moves went unrewarded.

Stuttgart weren't short on effort and Valdes had work to do late on but wasn't really stretched as his defence thwarted a valiant but ultimately fruitless late burst from the Bundesliga side.

Messi had one more shot at completing back to back hat-tricks but after forcing his way into a one-on-one with Lehmann, dinking over the goalkeeper only to see his effort trail wide of the mark.

Bojan came off the bench for a late cameo, replacing Iniesta, and with his only touch of the game side-footed past the advancing Lehmann from 25 yards into an open net after latching onto Zlatan Ibrahimovic's through ball.

Barca are undoubtedly rediscovering their finest form and on this showing it is difficult to see how any team left in the competition could stop the champions claiming a second successive European crown.