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Martino in his press conference at the Ciutat Esportiva

Gerardo 'Tata' Martino / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Although this Saturday’s game at the Vicente Calderon pits first against second in La Liga, Barça boss Tata Martino insists it’s not necessarily a title decider: “there’s still half a season to go and I can’t see it as being a game that decides the league – though I do think it’s important for both teams immediate future, both domestically and in Europe. It’s important in psychological terms”.

Martino was full of praise for Saturday’s opponents: “they are a very strong team – one of the most serious and solid sides in Europe. It looks like we’re in for a great game. We are much better, both collectively and as individuals, than five months ago when we played them in the Super Cup. Atletico Madrid have kept playing at a great level since then”.
We are playing at our best, but I like to think that we aren’t at our limit just yet and that we can get even better
The boss insisted that the team would be aiming at keeping their game at the same high level of late, with quick passing, whilst avoiding corners and free kicks which could play into the hands of Atletico’s superior aerial game. “We have to be more clinical in front of goal than we were in the Super Cup. We are playing at our best, but I like to think that we aren’t at our limit just yet and that we can get even better over the next five months”
We can’t forget that Messi’s been out for 60 days and only played 30 minutes.
Asked whether Messi would be in his starting line up for the game, Martino explained: “Messi is fine – everybody saw that in midweek. However, he’s had a long time out and we’ll have to decide whether he’s ready yet to play 90 minutes of such a demanding match. We can’t forget that he’s been out for 60 days and only played 30 minutes. I’ve not spoken with Messi about it yet, though I do talk a lot to him, though the most he could say is that he feels fit enough to start if we need him”.


Whether Messi starts or not, Martino will be taking 22 players to the game, including Alves and Neymar, who have both completed the last few training sessions, and Afellay, who the boss admitted “still hasn’t got the medical okay to play. It seemed right to me that all of the players that are training normally should be there”. Martino also admitted that the players are in great form and it’s getting harder to pick his starting eleven. This Saturday, he’ll have another tough choice to make.

 

 


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