Gerardo Martino has again been forced to defend the style of play he has implemented since taking charge of Barcelona. In Saturday’s 4-0 win over Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona failed to enjoy the majority of possession in a match for the first time in five years. But Martino has hit back at the criticism, claiming that if he were from the Barcelona system, like predecessors Tito Vilanova and Pep Guardiola, or Dutch, like Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal and Frank Rijkard, then he would not face such scrutiny.
“Whenever you have a team that has been as successful as this side, these debates will occur, especially when the coach isn't from Catalonia or from Holland,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “But my main concern is how the players are performing and at the moment the team are solid and the players are happy, so that makes me relaxed."
Martino has stated that there has been a slight evolution in style -- something which Gerard Pique has welcomed by claiming that the team is no longer “slaves” to tiki-taka -- although exclaimed that it was hardly revolutionary.
“I haven't come here to make any changes, and if you want to question our possession, then last year the average was 66 percent and this year it's 65.8 percent,” he explained. “If because of that 0.2 percent you want to say we have changed everything, then go ahead. And with regards to us playing long passes, I remember that Rafa Marquez used to play here, so it's not as if the club hasn't seen that before.”
Barcelona will have Sergio Busquets back available when they take on Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. However, Cesc Fabregas has been rested, while Carles Puyol is still not fit enough to return.
Their opponents come into the match in need of a positive performance. After a fourth-placed La Liga finish last season, the campaign started brightly for new coach Jagoba Arrasate with an opening day league win and an impressive two-legged performance against Lyon to comfortably progress to the Champions League group stage. But Sociedad are without a victory since and, indeed, have gone three matches without scoring.
Loan signing from Queens Park Rangers, Esteban Granero was ruled out for six months with a knee ligament injury last week and Sociedad are expected to draft in Barcelona’s Mexican midfielder Jonathan dos Santos on loan as cover.
D: Daniel Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano
M: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Pedro, Messi, Neymar
Real Sociedad (probable)
D: Estrada, Gonzalez, Inigo Martinez, De la Bella
M: Markel, Pardo, Prieto
F: Griezmann, Seferovic, Vela
Prediction: Barcelona were vulnerable in the first half of each of their last two matches before going onto secure comfortable victories. On paper, Sociedad certainly have the attacking talent to punish Barcelona if there is similar sloppiness once again. However, that will take an improvement on the visitors’ recent performances.
With Busquets likely to come back in for Alex Song and add more control of the ball at the base of midfield, Barcelona should be steadier on Tuesday. It should be an entertaining fixture and Sociedad have the chance to spring a surprise if they play at their best, but Barcelona should emerge with a sixth-straight league victory to start the season.
Barcelona 3-1 Real Sociedad
Where to watch: The Spanish Primera Division match will kick-off at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sports Espanol, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.