Martino: The game was as Atlético wanted it
Barcelona manager Tata Martino felt that his team had stood up well against Atlético Madrid, but acknowledged that the damage had been done in the first twenty minutes of the game, with the goal from Koke enough to sent their opponents through to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
At his post-match press conference, Barca manager Tata Martino responded to suggestions that his team had performed weakly, by pointing out the different styles of the two sides and that the intensity shown by Atlético in the first twenty minutes, is what marked the difference.
“The team showed their faces, but our ways are not the same as Atlético. We played the way this team has for the last ten years and that’s our way of standing up to them, with a formula that has brought us much success. What has happened, is there was a big difference between the two sides in the first twenty minutes. Then later, we had chances of our own and they did too.”
Asked why his team had seemed to lack intensity of their own, Martino suggested that hadn’t been the case, but acknowledged that his side struggled to impose their usual dominance of possession.
“At the start, the game was as Atlético wanted it, with longer balls forward, second balls for them to attack on the rebound. It’s not a matter of us not showing intensity, but rather that we couldn’t string together four or five consecutive passes. We expected to have more control to avoid such friction, but we didn’t succeed.”
Cross examined about why Alexis hadn’t been introduced earlier in the game, Martino responded by explaining that in his mind, the decisive battles were centrally between the two sides, rather than on the flanks.
“We needed to stretch our opponents in the middle, to use Messi, Neymar or Iniesta. It seemed more necessary for us to do more there, than out wide, because there we had our full-backs.”
At the suggestion that Messi hadn’t seemed to connect well with the rest of his team-mates, Martino pointed out that he had a specific role to play and that as a team, they cannot simply rely on the Argentine star alone.
“We weren’t interested in how he participated, but rather that he was winning the one on ones down the right flank. That’s why we looked for Cesc as the false nine. He had two chances because of good diagonal runs and was there to look for the ball on the inside. We didn’t think it prudent for him to get involved so much against the play of Atlético, whilst also, we don’t just base everything on Leo.”
With the defeat and when the virtues of Atlético were highlighted, Martino simply pointed out that they’re a contrasting team to Barca and that neither can emulate the virtues of the other.
“It’s impossible for Barca to incorporate the sort of things Atlético do. The same thing in reverse, is also true. They are both contrasting teams, with very different types of players.”
Atlético and Barcelona must meet once more this season, on the very final day of the season in La Liga, in a game that could turn out to be the title decider. Martino was asked what will be the key to winning that encounter.
“All five games have gone the same way so far, beyond there being a winner today. There were no tactical differences. Now, one has overcome the other. I don’t expect anything different in the final game of La Liga, unless we can score the first goal.”
When asked by a journalists, if the remarkable atmosphere at the Vicente Calderón had made an additional difference for Atlético, the Barca manager acknowledged that it’s unique in Spain, but also pointed out that coming from Argentina, it’s the sort of atmosphere he’s often seen before.
“Given where I come from, it’s a minor detail, although what we’ve seen here today, has been different to elsewhere in Spain. I’m talking about what we’ve experienced in Glasgow, in Manchester, but you need to go to the stadiums like Boca, River or Newell’s. Maybe you should take a trip there.”
As for morale, Martino admitted that the atmosphere in the Barca locker room amongst the players, was hardly the most lively after their defeat, but looking ahead, he also doubted that it will have any bearing on how the team face the challenges ahead, in their two remaining bids for silverware.
“Today it’s bad, because we had a lot of expectations. Now we’ll have to talk with the players and keep looking ahead. The good thing is that at least with 40 days to go, we’ve reached a point where we’ve had options in all three competitions. I don’t think this will have any influence on the other competitions, the Copa del Rey or La Liga.”
“On Saturday we have another final in La Liga, against Granada. Then on Wednesday, an actual final in the Copa del Rey. I can’t lie to you right now and say there’s a party atmosphere in our locker room.”