Ahead of the meeting with Milan, Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has reacted with pointed sarcasm to criticism of his side’s playing style by suggesting that it will be a clash of two teams engulfed in “crisis.”
Despite being unbeaten since he took charge in the summer, Martino has been subjected to regular questions about the move away from a strict tike-taka style. A narrow 1-0 home win over local rivals Espanyol did little to dampen suggestions that Barcelona were now less pleasing on the eye than in previous seasons.
“We are also going through a crisis, I don't think there is that much difference, in that way I think we are similar to each other,” he said sarcastically when asked about Milan’s current problems, according to Marca.
“From where I´m standing I can't see any crisis, but from what I can gather from what I hear and read, we are in one,” he added. “There's always room for improvement and we can always play better, without doubt. Barcelona needs alternatives if it wants to carry on hurting its opponents, and also so that they don't have so many clear references.
“I have no idea what could happen when we lose. I've been watching some war films to give me an idea. Of course, this is going to happen. I can't imagine living through this crisis without losing a match. But the beauty of a team's game cannot be measured in the amount of passes.”
After a 1-1 draw with Milan at the San Siro two weeks ago, Barcelona can move to within touching distance of a place in the Champions League knockout phase with a victory at the Camp Nou. Martino claims to be taking nothing for granted, despite Milan’s domestic problems. However, talk of a crisis is far more accurate when discussing the Italian giants.
A 2-0 home loss to Fiorentina on Saturday was their third defeat in five Serie A games and left them just three points off the relegation zone. Rumors have since swirled about the future of both manager Max Allegri and chief executive Adriano Galliani. Allegri, though, claims not to be anxious about the prospect of upcoming fixtures not going his way.
“I am not nervous, neither about the Barca match nor about Chievo at the weekend, because I will approach both games with a positive mindset and with the goal of winning,” he said, according to Uefa.com. “The result depends on many things and at the moment things are not going very well. We must focus on the details and see what helps us most.”
There are reports that star striker Mario Balotelli may start from the bench against Barcelona, with Kaka playing in behind Robinho. Balotelli has not scored in his last four appearances. Goalkeeper Christian Abbiati has recovered from injury and is likely to return to the starting lineup. Barcelona will have defender Adriano available after missing the match with Espanyol.
D: Alves, Pique, Puyol, Adriano
M: Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Sanchez, Messi, Neymar
D: Abate, Zapata, Mexes, constant
M: Birsa, Montolivo, De Jong, Muntari
Where to watch: The Champions League Group H match will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.