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 Posted by Dermot Corrigan
Apr 8, 2014

Martino hoping Messi is at his best

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino says he expects Lionel Messi to have a key role in deciding Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinal second leg at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.

Gerardo Martino has come under fire following Saturday's defeat.
Gerardo Martino knows Barca face a tough task to reach the final four at Atletico.

Ledwith: Crunch time

Last week's first leg at the Camp Nou ended 1-1 -- the fourth draw in four meetings between Barca and Atletico Madrid this season -- meaning Barca will need to score at least once to progress to the semis.

Messi was held scoreless last Tuesday, as he has been now in his last five matches against Atletico, something the III blaugrana coach admitted was unusual, but did not mean the Argentine was not influencing the game in other ways.

"It is clear that Leo is used to scoring in almost every game," Martino said. "So when he does not score for some games against someone it calls your attention. We want him to be decisive, and he can do that in many ways, not just by scoring goals.

"All opponents are very careful to try and minimise his participation in the game. If he is at his best tomorrow we have a better chance to progress."

Only four goals in total have been scored by the two teams in 360 minutes of action so far this season, with Atletico generally sitting deep and denying Barca space to attack into. Martino said the teams' fifth meeting of the campaign could be very different if his side could score first.

"Both teams know each other really well," he said. "Each has their own very different and very marked style. Barcelona have not yet been ahead on the scoreboard. That is normally very important, and even more given the circumstances of this game. So we are aiming to score first and then manage the game in a different way."

'Tata' said he wanted his team to play as they had in the last half hour of the first leg, when cracks started to appear in what had previously been a pretty tight Atletico back-line.

"All our games [this season] have been very even, while we have had some superiority in the second halves," Martino said. "We need to keep going on the same path as the last 30 minutes last week, and try and extend that to the whole game. Of course it will not be easy but if we can score when we are on top, you will see a different game."

Centre-half Marc Bartra, 23, and goalkeeper Jose Pinto, 38 will start at the Calderon due to injuries to regulars Gerard Pique and Victor Valdes. Martino is also likely to pick his four Spain international midfielders and go with Lionel Messi and Neymar up front -- as he did in the first leg and for the 4-3 La Liga win at Real Madrid recently.

"I do not believe that the best moments of the Bernabeu were that different from the last half hour last week," he said. "The difference in the analysis is we won one but not the other. In both games we made chances playing like Barca at their best."

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