Former Barcelona forward Hristo Stoichkov has backed the Liga champions to dominate the final standings of the 2015 Ballon d’Or.
Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez have all been named on the 23-man shortlist released by FIFA, with Barca’s historic treble-winning exploits likely to influence voters.
Stoichkov considers Iniesta a candidate for a podium finish but also knows Barca’s fearsome three-man forward line is likely to dominate.
“Messi will win the Ballon d’Or, Neymar and Luis Suarez will be on the podium. Iniesta should also be among the three nominees,” Stoichkov said to Onda Cero.
Barca and Real Madrid are level on 18 points after eight Liga matches so far this season, along with Celta Vigo, while Atletico Madrid and Villarreal are only two points behind.
Despite a more open start to the Spanish top flight, Stoichkov has little doubt that only Madrid will be capable of fighting the reigning champions for the title this term.
“I don’t see anything to worry Barca and Madrid. The difference will be when they play each other,” he said. “I’m relaxed about Barca because I know they’ll keep winning things.
“It looks impossible that Real Madrid will drop six or eight points to Barcelona before Christmas. When you let in goals there will always be doubts, but you have to look at how they played in the last two games.”
The former Bulgaria star has also called for scrutiny on the form of Neymar to be brought to an end.
The Brazil captain has been heavily in the spotlight in the absence of the injured Lionel Messi, answering recent critics with four goals in the 5-2 win over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
“I’ve no doubt over Barca’s quality. Despite the injuries, the team looks well prepared. Now everyone talks about Neymar but want I want is a team.”