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Mascherano plays down Messi concerns

Javier Mascherano has said that Lionel Messi’s current form is not due to him being played in a different position by new Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino.

Gerardo Martino has defended his star striker Lionel Messi.
Gerardo Martino has defended his star striker Lionel Messi.

Tomas: Barca changes

Messi has now gone over 300 Primera Division minutes without a goal, his longest barren run in over two years. While the player himself has suggested he is not quite 100 percent fit at the moment, some Catalan pundits have suggested that Martino’s tactical tweaks -- which included fielding Messi on the right wing recently against Real Madrid -- mean he is less involved in the play and therefore less likely to get on the scoresheet.

Mascherano told La Gazzetta dello Sport that there might be something in this, but he expected the decision had been just for that particular game.

"It is true that playing more to the right Messi can intervene less than before in the play," he said. "But that was just in the Clasico and was only a certain strategy from the coach."

The Argentine utility man, who is being used by Martino as a centre-back, followed the usual Barca club line in saying that this season’s more direct style of play did not mean the team was turning its back on its tiki-taka history.

"One stage has been closed and another opened," Mascherano said. "I do not believe that Tata is here to change things, but to look for alternatives, after so much time the opponents know how we play. So we cannot just keep playing in the same way."

Mascherano, 29, spent three seasons playing in midfield under Rafa Benitez at Liverpool and did not rule out teaming up again at some point in the future with the Spanish coach who is now at Napoli.

"I am a grateful person and I remember that Rafa took me from West Ham, where I did not play, and gave me confidence at Liverpool in a team full of great midfielders," he said. "I would love to work with him again someday and he knows it. But today I am at Barcelona and I am fine there. In the future, we will see."

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