Lionel Messi has been passed fit and returns to the Barcelona squad for Wednesday night’s Spanish Supercopa second leg against Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou.
Messi was substituted at half-time in last week’s 1-1 first leg at Atletico’s Estadio Vicente Calderon, where Neymar came from the bench to equalise after David Villa had scored for Atletico against his former club.
The Argentine subsequently missed Sunday’s 1-0 win at Malaga with a left thigh muscle injury, but has since returned to training. The new Barca boss said at Tuesday evening’s pre-game press conference that his countryman looked in good shape.
"[Messi] is good and has trained normally," Martino said. "He did his work with the group, and was worked harder, with those who did not play at Malaga."
‘Tata’ was again pressed as to whether €57 million summer signing Neymar would finally make his first start for Barca, after appearing from the bench in his new club’s first three competitive games.
In response, Martino said he understood everyone wanted to see the two South Americans in tandem, but maintained that everyone needed to show some patience.
"I am looking forward to seeing him play together with Messi, but I also have an obligation to take care of all my players," he said. "And when it comes to Neymar, who is young, even more so. This is something the media like to focus on. But I want him to be a Barca player for ten to 12 years, not for him to fix my problems in one match. I just want things to go well for him and the way we are doing things is correct. We coaches do what we think is best."
Adriano Correia has been ruled out of the game with the hamstring problem suffered at Malaga, meaning Dani Alves should be at right-back, with Jordi Alba on the left side of the Barca defence. Should Neymar finally get a start, Pedro Rodriguez is expected to drop to the bench.
Another selection poser is in midfield, where one of Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta will likely miss out. Of the three Fabregas has begun the season most impressively, and could also provide a more physical presence to combat Atletico’s likely aggressive approach, however leaving out Xavi or Iniesta in a final would be a big call for the new boss.
Martino again stressed that he was being careful to provide continuity at the Camp Nou, and pointed out that last year’s coaches Tito Vilanova and Jordi Roura would deserve credit should Barca lift the Supercopa when the second leg ends early on Thursday morning.
"The success of the league win was due to Tito, to Jordi," he said. "I parachuted in [when Vilanova could not continue due to illness]. I want to win this trophy for the confidence of everyone."