Barca coach Martino believes Atletico will sweat in Champions League
Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino sees Atletico Madrid as a worthy opponent in Europe. The Catalan boss admits Atletico Madrid has given Barcelona a tough time this season, but the encounter with the Spanish rivals on Tuesday in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal will be completely different on many levels.
There have been three encounters between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona this season, but there have been no winners from any of those games. Three draws and only two goals can account for the action between the two sides, but as both teams go head to head in the Champions League, the action is expected to intensify tenfold.
Martino believes the league battles were evenly matched, but since the pressure of performing on two legs in a limited amount of time is too great Diego Simeone’s side are expected to come out swinging.
“You can see [Atletico] are very strong,” Martino said. “In the three games against them they have showed they are a very difficult opponent. The difference now is the stage of the competition. This is a Champions League quarterfinal.”
The Argentinean tactician explained that to win the game his men needed to match the “intensity” of Simeone’s side and keep the possession of the ball. Martino also believes that losing the ball in dangerous areas have put the defense in danger; therefore that is another thing the Catalan side should avoid.
“The secret of the game, and all games against Atletico Madrid, is to match their intensity,” Martino said. “But our weapon is to be Barcelona. We need to match their intensity, and then play our game. I do not expect it to be very open. We must be very careful when we lose the ball and [not allow] spaces into which Atletico can counter. We must always be aware of what the rival can do.
“But we must never forget we are Barcelona and first think about what our team can do.”
Barcelona are expected to go with a full squad into the game against Atletico Madrid, although Pedro Rodriguez missed the training session on Sunday due to gastroenteritis. The Spanish forward returned to practice on Monday. Alex Song might be missing from action since his recovery from calf injury has been delayed.
Martino is expected to field a strong midfield with Neymar and Lionel Messi up front together once again. The wings are expected to show versatility when they drive into the midfield. La Blaugrana’s defense will be of greatest concern. If Barcelona are able to keep Atletico Madrid’s stars such as Diego Costa at bay they will be able to win the battle at Camp Nou today.