Martino: I made a defensive change and if I had to do it again, I would
Barcelona manager, Tata Martino was pleased with his side’s 2-1 win over arch-rivals Real Madrid in his debut ‘Clasico’ on Saturday evening at the Camp Nou, and explained that he took out Andres Iniesta for Alex Song for defensive reasons to preserve the lead and refused to speak about the officials calls and non-calls.
In his post-match press conference, Martino analysed the match and explained his tactical decisions, which proved the right ones in the massive win to go up six points over their arch-rivals.
“As I’ve always done up until this point, I will not speak about the referee, even more so when the other coach has already spoken about it.
“[Changing Iniesta for Song] was a change of balance. It was a defensive switch. I felt it necessary to reinforce the midfield. If I had to do it again, I would.
“With Cesc, I wanted to give us more between the lines and to alternate positions with Messi. When we saw the formation of Real Madrid, with Ramos at midfield, we opted to play one on one on the wing with Messi and Neymar.
“I wanted to win, not just hold the match. In the first half, we saw the team that we’re all used to. Therefore, I didn’t feel it necessary to make changes.
“In the first 20 minutes of the second half, I saw that we were too far back and giving the advantage to Real Madrid. We made changes to modify it and regain control, which improved our defence of the counter-attack.”
Martino then spoke about the performances of Iniesta, Messi, Neymar and Alexis.
“In the midfield, we played to cover Alves better and allow Mascherano to run with Cristiano.
“I saw Iniesta as I saw the rest of the team; we had a great first half. In the last play of the first half, they almost drew even. However, in the second half, the team started to fatigue, and wit it, of course, the individual performance.
“The same thing happened to Messi as with Iniesta. They go hand in hand with the team’s overall performance. It doesn’t matter where he plays, he plays the same. Save for the backline and Valdes, others were valued as a collective unit. Messi has played where he did today, many times before. He worked hard and gave a superlative performance. If he, like other great players is able to do that, we’ll be fine.
“Neymar played a great game but has had better games. His goal in El Clasico has much more significance. He’s had better games.
“Players with tremendous skill achieve things for themselves, not for me. I take no credit for their performance. Alexis has been doing well since last season. If this improves his situation and other people recognise it, so be it. Alexis has very high self-esteem and is ready to be put in these situations. In Glasgow, he was instrumental coming off the bench and the same goes for today.”
Martino concluded by discussing his own role with the team, in a night dedicated to former manager, Tito Vilanova and the team’s lead in the La Liga table.
“The six points accounts more emotionally than mathematically. There’s 60% of La Liga left to play. Real Madrid and Atleti are so close, the can close the gap.
“People say that it will be difficult for this team to keep their form, but these players are capable of doing that. My impact on the team is minimal. I still need to get more involved and do more analysis of our rivals. There’s still a lot left to do. I don’t play. I’m happy, but I recognise that this is just the beginning. If there was a title on the line, we’d be celebrating, but this is just one game.
“The message for Tito was very commendable. The fans helped us a lot because this was a very difficult match.”