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Carles Puyol stands by Tata Martino

Carles Puyol has defended Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino, insisting the players must bear equal responsibility for a dismal week in which the club exited the Champions League and slipped to third in La Liga.

Tomas: Barca on brink of chaos

Barca followed their 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in Europe last week with a 1-0 loss to Granada in the league, which has prompted heavy criticism of Martino in newspapers including Mundo Deportivo. Sport, meanwhile, reported on Monday that Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp is the club’s first choice to replace the Argentine.

However, club captain Puyol told a news conference that it was unfair to hold Martino responsible for the recent disappointments.

“We are a team and the blame is for everyone,” Puyol, who is currently sidelined through injury, said. “It is easier to attack a coach than 25 players, but we know ourselves that the whole team is responsible.

“We tried everything against Granada. We had many clear chances. The normal thing would have been a win, but things do not always work out for you. We have analysed it and we know we all have to give everything.”

Martino, who arrived from Newell’s Old Boys last summer, signed a two-year contract at the Camp Nou but the deal contains an exit clause that can be triggered by either party at the end of the season.

Puyol added: “He has one more year on his contract. We trust in him. If he and the club want to continue, I wish him the best. He seems a good coach to me. We are with him to the death and he is with us. Nobody has liked these last results.”

Lionel Messi has also come in for some criticism after failing to score in either leg of the quarterfinal against Atletico, and then again at Granada, but Puyol said nobody at the club blamed the Argentina international.

“If there is one player you cannot doubt, it is Messi,” Puyol said. “He is the best in history and can never be discarded. Sometimes things go for you and sometimes not. If he had scored the free kick the other day then we would be talking about something else. We trust a lot in him and we appreciate all he has given us, and all he will give us.”

Puyol announced last month that he would be leaving Barca this summer due to the knee problems that have plagued him for more than two years, but there has been a suggestion he could yet stay on after FIFA imposed a transfer ban on the club.

However, the 36-year-old has indicated that a U-turn is unlikely and expressed hope the club would be able to successfully appeal the punishment.

“I would only stay if I was able to help,” he said. “My idea remains the same because I want to be at my level and help the team. That was taking a lot of out of me, and I do not want to spend another year like that. I hope the punishment can be sorted out by the club.”

Puyol -- who last played on March 2 -- will hope to be able to help his team in Wednesday’s Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid in Valencia, with Martino currently without any fully fit centre-backs.

“I am working to make the Copa final,” he said. “We all want to play in these games. I will give everything possible to make it. Tomorrow we will see.”

Gerard Pique is currently sidelined with a fractured hip while Marc Bartra missed the Granada game with a hamstring problem.


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