Martino: It must be very difficult to be Leo Messi
Barcelona manager Tata Martino indicated that his team can’t keep mourning their Champions League exit, insisting that they’ve still much to play for in La Liga and the Copa del Rey. The Argentine coach also believes that criticism for Messi’s performance against Atlético, is over the top.
In his pre-match press call ahead of Saturday’s trip to Granada, Barcelona manager Tata Martino underlined that it’s a crucial game for both teams, but his side must also show a positive reaction to their Champions League exit.
“We’re facing a complicated opponent and one that we’ll all be working hard to overcome. They were complicated in the first half of the season. They lost last weekend and they have a great need for points. We also have to see how we react. It’s a monumental game for them and for us.”
“If there’s anything that our team can demonstrate, it’s knowing what they’re playing for and we all know what we’re playing for tomorrow. We have to acknowledge that our opponent also has much to play for.”
As for morale, Martino admitted that the players remain down about their defeat at Atlético Madrid, but insisted that there’s no time for them to feel sorry for themselves.
“It’s impossible to see a team recover so quickly after being eliminated. We went out of a competition we wanted to win. Nobody is at their best of morale, but we’ve no time to lament anything. We have to turn our immediate focus back to La Liga.”
As such, even though Barca are strong favourites to get back to winning ways at Granada, Martino warned that no game or opponent can be taken for granted, whilst assuring that claiming the three points at Nuevo Los Cármenes would be a good morale booster for everyone.
“There is no difference against any opponent, we should be trying to beat everyone. We must have a good game tomorrow. What gives us assurances is that we’re depending on ourselves, to win all our remaining games. We have a chance for revenge. A win in Granada would put the defeat in the Champions League, a little bit behind us.”
Following the media hype and criticism about the performance of Lionel Messi against Atlético Madrid, Martino feels it’s over the top and that the distance he runs in a game, isn’t what matters, it’s what he does when he has the ball.
“Whether he runs five, six or fifteen kilometres in a game, doesn’t matter to me. What we want is for him to have more quality time with the ball. He had chances, but he couldn’t finish them. It must be very difficult to be Leo Messi, because if he doesn’t play as well as in other games, he gets so much criticism. Even the most decisive players are able to go through ups and downs.”
Iniesta didn’t react positively after his substitution at Atlético, but Martino doesn’t see any lasting problems between himself and the player.
“I’ve not spoken with him about it, nor do I think it’s necessary. We were looking for an extra striker.”
The exit from the Champions League means that Barcelona could arguably have more options and focus on La Liga and the Copa del Rey, but Martino doesn’t see it that way.
“I wanted us to remain alive in the Champions League. Maybe playing one game a week from now on is positive, but I’d willingly trade places with Real Madrid or Atlético Madrid.”
However, Martino also doesn’t want to spend any more time lamenting something that has already happened, preferring to focus on the two remaining pieces of silverware his team can still win.
“The failure is in the Champions League, but I would still be happy if we could win any of the other competitions. I need to focus on what’s to come, not what has already happened.”
For the game at Granada, Martino explained that central defender Marc Bartra won’t be available, with a minor injury, as he announced his squad of eighteen players.
Pinto, Oier, Montoya, Alces, Adriano, Jordi Alba, Mascherano, Song, Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Xavi, Iniesta, Fàbregas, Tello, Messi, Alexis, Neymar, Pedro.