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Ahead of the crucial second leg match with Manchester City, Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino has rejected suggestions that he is not the right man for the job. Questions have been asked about the quality of the Argentine boss, as Barcelona have been going through a sticky patch in the last few weeks. They have lost three out of the last six league matches and it has seen them concede their lead in the league table to Real Madrid with only 10 matches remaining in the season. However, they are on course to reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League after a 2-0 win over Manchester City in the first leg.
It was arguably their best performance of the season so far, as they dominated the match from start to finish. Barcelona do not come into the second leg in the right frame of mind after having lost yet another league match on Sunday. The 1-0 defeat against Real Valladolid has put them four points behind Real Madrid after 27 matches. The team has not been achieving the heights of the last few years. They have been able to come this far only because of individual performances from the likes of Lionel Messi, who is also not hitting the heights of last season.
Rumours suggest that the manager will be sacked if Barcelona do not retain the league title.
“I have to be strong and powerful otherwise I should not be a manager. I am not listening to all of the criticism. I’m not here to express how you should do your work. I have to train my team and make them play better. It’s not an issue of motivation, Barcelona has enough good players to think about being successful this season. I am not here to talk about the criticism. If we play good then the criticisms will change,” said Martino.
Online video Score: 4 / 5
Carles Puyol is nearing the end of his career no matter how much fans and players will hate it when he finally decides to hang up his boots. Injuries have been something that has always troubled the 35 years old defender and the Spanish defender has admitted that he would like to play until he was 40 but he doesn’t want to be a disturbance for the team.
Puyol said: “I want to continue playing, but I don’t want to be a passenger. The moment I don’t feel okay, I’ll stop, regardless of my contract.”
In these recent few seasons Puyol is being blocked out from the first team as Gerardo Martino usually opts to go with Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano as the preferred combination at the heart of Barcelona’s defence.
Marc Bartra is another candidate that is fighting to find his place into the main squad of Martino and he is looking to be like a promising figure for the upcoming years.
Vicente Del Bosque revealed not too long ago that Puyol is still being taken into consideration for the upcoming 2014 World Cup as it will probably be his last one as well.
‘’Look, no one, absolutely no one, is currently ruled out for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. And much less Carles Puyol. Carles Puyol is a special case for me. What happens will depend on whether you have minutes on the pitch, whether or not you are playing regularly at your club, how you are at the end of season’’.
‘’Carles and other possible call-ups, everyone. I’ve already told him when he was recovering that we would expect him to sharpen. His recovery has been remarkable for the dedication and effort he has put in’’. Del Bosque stated.
Puyol has a contract that runs up until 2016 with Barcelona but it might end sooner if he is not able to snatch a spot in the starting lineup of the coach.
Movie Rating: four / five
Lionel Messi might not have won the Ballon d’Or award, but, Gerardo Martino, the Barcelona boss, still considers him the greatest footballer going around at the minute.
The Ballon d’Or award for 2013 was won by Cristiano Ronaldo a couple of days ago and rightly so because he performed much better than Messi last year.
According to Martino, Ronaldo might have been a better performer than Messi in the last 1 year or so, but, if looked overall, Messi is still ahead of the Portuguese.
Speaking in one of his interviews yesterday, the Blaugrana boss said, “First of all, I would like to congratulate Ronaldo for getting the award. He deserved that because he had played well last year. But, as far as the best is concerned, it’s still Lionel for me. Yes, he has had tough times of late, but, there is no one better than him.”
Martino also made it clear that the Spanish centre-back Marc Bartra would be given a contract extension pretty soon.
Martino said, “Marc’s contract is to be extended and I am glad about that. He has developed a great deal in the last few months and he is definitely a star in the making.”
Bartra is a product of Barcelona academy. He had joined the club as 12 years old boy and has been a part of the Barcelona B team as well. For the senior team of Barcelona, he has so far played 23 La Liga matches and has scored 2 goals.
Barcelona’s next match is the Copa Del Rey pre quarter final against Getafe CF. That will be the return leg and Barca will go into it with a lot of confidence because they are already ahead by 4 goals on aggregate.
Video Rating: four / 5
Movie Rating: 5 / five
The list of injured players for Barcelona just keeps on piling up with Daniel Alves being the latest addition. The Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is already confirmed to be out from the playing fields for the remainder of the year while Victor Valdes and Jordi Alba also picked up an injury that will leave them in the sidelines for an undetermined time lapse.
The medical staff reported that Daniel Alves will take between 7-10 days in making a full recovery.
Barcelona are topping the Spanish league La Liga with 37 points just 3 points ahead of Atletico Madrid and their rivals Real Madrid sitting in 3rd place with 31 points. This means that any kind of slip up from the team of Tata Martino can be the difference in being at the top of the League or falling behind.
Lionel Messi received the Golden Shoe award for the 3rd time on Wednesday after scoring 46 goals last season becoming the 1st player ever to accomplish this task.
“This is a beautiful award that goes to the entire squad for what it has done. It is recognition of the Barcelona dressing room and of all that the team has been doing all year,” Messi said. “It is a group award more than an individual one because those are a lot of goals. I wouldn’t have won it without them, this one or the previous ones.”
It seems however that the Golden Shoe award came at a high price for Messi as he being burdened by injuries in this season only allowing him to score 8 goals in this season and not gonna be able to play up until January.
Even though Barcelona will have to play without Messi and Valdes, Tata Martino is confident his team can cope with their absence.
“We will be without the best player in the world and without the best shot-stopper in the world, but I have little doubt that we will cope without them. We have some great players to replace them,” the Barca coach stated at a press conference.
Movie Score: four / five