Martino: It will take more than 100 points to conquer La Liga
Barcelona manager Tata Martino believes that it’s going to take an exceptional haul of points to win La Liga, if Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, maintain their current form.
Ahead of Sunday’s encounter at Levante, one of three matches between the two clubs in a short space of time with their Copa del Rey pairing, Barcelona manager expects each game to be different, using the recent matches between Villarreal and Real Sociedad as a casing point.
“We won’y get bored of seeing the same faces. We know the games won’t be similar. Look at what happened between Villarreal and Real Sociedad. The display of Villarreal in the 5-1 was sensational, amongst the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here. Four days later, the response from Real Sociedad was to eliminate them from the Copa del Rey.”
As for what he expects from Levante, Martino suggested that he doesn’t see the team managed by Caparrós to stray away from the way they play their game, just because they’re playing Barcelona.
“Teams set themselves out for games to play however they can. We have too much quality in our team to look for excuses. They will play the way they always do, tight at the back and looking to counter-attack. As for ourselves, we’ll have the possession and play our own game.”
With continued suggestions that Cristian Tello doesn’t feel important enough at Barca, Martino simply explained that it’s his intention that every player feels they’re a valued member of the squad.
“We always want everyone to feel important, but we can’t give that pleasure to everyone. We want all the players to feel that joy collectively, even though some get more games than others.”
One player whose importance can never be questioned, Andrés Iniesta, will not feature in the league game on Sunday, but should be back in action in the cup match in midweek, promised the Barcelona manager.
“He’s practically back to normal in training. If this was a decisive game, Andrés would play. Unless there are any surprises, he’ll be fine for the Copa del Rey.”
As for the ongoing debate over Carles Puyol and his place in the team, the Argentine coach hinted that he has an agreement with the player, that he won’t be overburdened with games, as the veteran defender continues his work to get back to his best physical condition.
“It’s not that I don’t see him playing in the team normally, but we have to be sparing with how we utilise him. That’s for the good of the team and by intertwining games with training sessions. We’re given the impression that the team has the response from Puyol and little by little, he’ll get past his physical problems. It’s not a technical decision, but without going further into it, we have a pact.”
Recalling the 7-0 thrashing Barcelona dealt Levante on the opening day of the season at the Camp Nou, Martino was asked about his thoughts at the time. As well as that, he expressed his pleasure that the team are progressing well in all competitions.
“The first thing I thought was I wish that all the season could be like this. We’re where we should be right now, with options open on all fronts. There are a handful of clubs that feel obliged to win games in some competitions and leave others to one side, but we’re very much alive on all fronts.”
Now heading into the second half of the season, Martino was also asked how he feels about things now with the club.
“It’s not the same now as when I first arrived. You start a little anxious, nervy and keen to be up to the right standard. A lot has happened, lots of games and experience gives you more calm.”
No Barcelona press conference would be complete, without at least some mention of Lionel Messi and this was no different. Martino pointed out how his recovery period has almost been like a belated pre-season, which has brought the player back to his best physical condition and form.
“Aside from his unfortunate injury, he’s done different work from the rest. What the rest made the most of in July and August, he’s made the most of now. A footballer like him, with such ability, sound of mind and strong, he’s in the right condition to offer us the best of himself now.”
Looming on the not too distant horizon is the return of action in the Champions League and the games against Manchester City. One question posed to the Barcelona manager, was to ask if players like Messi are likely to find it easier to score goals in La Liga, than they might in the Premier League.
“I’ve never worked in England. The Premier League is different this year to those in the past. Now there’s seven teams that could win the title. Is it easier to score here than there? I don’t know.”
As for preparations ahead of those two clashes with Manchester City, Martino simply explained that there’s plenty of other games to come, before then, whilst also conscious that he would like to have his strongest squad available.
“I don’t think we need we need to prepare a team running up to the games. There’s more than enough games before then to reach that point in the best physical shape. We remain understanding of the need to get to those games with fresh players, physically and mentally.”
Back to the race for the title in La Liga, with Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid also in top form, the Barcelona manager believes it will take a monumental number of points, to decide the eventual winners of the competition.
“The situation is going to be similar and if all three teams remain consistent, it will take more than 100 points to conquer La Liga.”