Gerardo Martino talks up Clasico win
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino says Saturday’s 2-1 Clasico win over Real Madrid was worth more than just the three points for the morale boost it gave his players.
La Liga leaders Barca now sit six points ahead of third-placed Madrid, after a game in which they dominated the first half, but were penned back at times during the second period.
And the Blaugrana boss told Monday morning’s post-training news conference that his side were now buoyant after having come through the clash on top.
“To win a Clasico always gives you an important boost, the result was more important for the spirit of the squad than the three points,” Martino said. “Our spirit could not be better now -- after winning a very tough game, when both teams had periods where they were on top.”
Martino accepted that Javier Mascherano’s challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo at 1-0 in the game could have been a penalty, but suggested that both the Madrid camp and pundits around the club would be better off focusing on the overall balance of play rather than picking out individual incidents.
“Obviously they saw a refereeing error, and decided to focus on that,” he said. “But there was also a game played. In the first half Barca were better, Madrid were better for 25 minute at start of second half, and from there on it was very balanced. That is what happened in the game. We will focus on that. The Madrid coaches or players might look somewhere else.”
Neymar was Barca’s standout player on the day, with a goal and an assist in his first Clasico, while Lionel Messi was more subdued than usual and did not manage one shot on target during the 90 minutes.
But Martino said: “I am not worried whether he [Messi] scores goals or does not score goals, because he always makes an important contribution. He worked phenomenally hard for the team the other day, recovering the ball. We do not see any problem -- he is physically fine, he played the 90 minutes."
Martino said he had discussed beforehand with Messi that he would play the game positioned on the right wing.
“I talked to him about when he had played on the right wing, in the past, and in games for Argentina, when he plays behind [Gonzalo] Higuain,” he said. “We sometimes need to play him in different places -- there can be moments like the other day when he gets more space out wide. We do not have a natural centre-forward, but he could play behind one, with two wingers. It is always good to have different options for different situations.”
Martino said he will be calling up all his available first-team players for Tuesday’s trip to Celta Vigo, except for Gerard Pique who will be rested.
However, the Argentine was coy about how many changes he might make to his starting lineup, with a derby against Espanyol looming on Friday.
“Gerard, with our rotation plans, we thought it best for him to not play this game,” he said. “There could be some changes in the team as we are accumulating games, and we know that is necessary.”
Celta, who ended a poor run of form with a thumping 5-0 win at Malaga on Saturday, will pose a stiff test as they are impressing this season under former Blaugrana player and Barcelona B coach Luis Enrique, Martino said.
“It is always important to take into account their last game -- especially this great result at Malaga,” he said. “But apart from their results, Celta have a style of play which they will not change. Luis Enrique is very attached to Barcelona. You can see it in the way he sends his teams out to play. I am sure in the future he will have a big chance to be Barcelona coach."