Martino eyes maiden Barca triumph
Gerardo Martino is looking forward to the prospect of winning his first trophy as Barcelona coach ahead of Wednesday night’s Spanish Supercopa first leg at Atletico Madrid.
Speaking before training at Barca’s Ciutat Esportiva on Tuesday afternoon, Martino said he accepted that his new side were favourites for practically every game they played, and he expected his players to live up to that tag by winning the tie over the two games.
“I want to win everything that the team I coach has a chance to enter,” Martino said. “The Supercopa does not have the prestige of La Liga or the Champions League, but we will do our best to win it.
“Barcelona are favourites in nearly competitions it enters. But that does not mean anything is guaranteed. It can come down to who has a good night or a bad night.
“We must have sufficient intelligence to know there is another 90 minutes to come, at home. But we will play the same way, as Barcelona always play.”
Expectations are sky-high around the Camp Nou after Levante were hammered 7-0 in Martino’s first competitive game as Barca coach on Sunday, but the former Newell’s Old Boys manager said he had not yet got carried away.
“Praise and criticism do not change the way I live, but of course I prefer praise to criticism,” he said. “For me Levante was also a tough task. If it was resolved with a certain ease, that does not mean that we did not consider it a game with risks beforehand.”
Martino insisted Barca would prepare similarly for Wednesday’s game, though they will bear in mind the way Diego Simeone’s Atletico usually play.
“Atletico, for what they have done recently, the way they play, the difficulties that they almost always put their opponents in, they are a very solid team, with their own style, that plays for the full 90 minutes,” he said.
“They are also a team which wins, which wins a lot. So it is a very difficult challenge for us. They are a very intense side. They feel comfortable not having possession of the ball. They are vertical, when they win the ball back they send players forward. They like playing for the second balls.”
Pressed on whether he would change his XI for the game, perhaps given Neymar a first competitive start or returning Andres Iniesta to the line-up in place of Cesc Fabregas in midfield, Martino declined to give away details but said competition for places was a good thing.
“I know who is going to play,” he said. “But the way we work we will give you the team tomorrow. I have a problem in picking the team, the players do not have a problem in getting into it. They see the competition they have, the players they are training alongside every day. There is competition among them, to see who is best, who should be in the team.
“I am happy to see everybody well, motivated, ambitious to be in the team. It is very important that they recognise that there will be variations over the course of the season.”
Lionel Messi -- who played almost every minute of every game under previous coaches Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova, but was surprisingly substituted early against Levante -- now understands he will also be rested from time to time, according to Martino.
“This is something that both parties must understand,” he said. “Leo understands where it is coming from, we have talked about it, right at the start of my time here. I know I must be very careful with him, not to take him off five games in a row.
“But everything in football, and in human relationships, is about balance. In my job I must make the final decisions, but I do not usually make drastic decisions without talking to the players first. I always feel more comfortable with dialogue, than being the final authority on everything.”