Barcelona defender Marc Bartra has revealed how coach Gerardo Martino informing him that the club would not be signing a central defender has provided a major boost to his confidence this season. The Catalans were widely expected to spend lavishly on a new center-back this summer after struggles in the position last season, but Bartra explained that Martino provided immediate reassurance.
“At the start of the pre-season, I was worried that the club might sign another center-back and that would affect my chances of breaking into the side,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “When Tata [Martino] arrived, he gave me confidence and said that the club wouldn’t be signing a central defender. That built my confidence up.”
With Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol still ruled out through injury, Bartra is set to continue in the side when Barcelona host Real Valladolid on Saturday. In his only two starts this season, against Almeria and Celtic in the past week, Barcelona have gone without conceding a goal. Wins in both those fixtures means the Blaugrana still have a perfect record in both the Champions League and La Liga. While there has been criticism from some circles about the move away from a strict tiki-taka, style, Martino is happy with how the side is progressing under his leadership.
“There is room for improvement, the team is evolving,” he said, according to Barcelona’s official website. We have made progress since the first match, and I don’t think there have been any steps in the wrong direction. We are going from less to more and winning as we do it, which is what we have to do.”
Barcelona will again be without Lionel Messi for Saturday’s match, perhaps the only crumb of comfort for Valladolid. In his first season in charge, former Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martinez has led his side to just one victory to date. They do, though, come into the fixture on the back of draws with Levante and Malaga.
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D: Alves, Bartra, Pique, Adriano
M: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Sanchez, Fabregas, Neymar
Real Valladolid (probable)
D: Raukavina, Valiente, Pena, Bergdich
M: Baraja, Rossi
Ebert, Osorio, Ramos
Prediction: Valladolid have a host of injuries, particularly in midfield, that further complicates their task against the league leaders. Neymar gave hints against Celtic of the influential spark he can provide in the absence of Messi and perhaps the only thing missing from a fine start to his Camp Nou career is more goals. They may well come on Saturday, with Barcelona likely to enjoy a comfortable win to make it eight wins out of eight before the international break.
Barcelona 3-0 Real Valladolid
Where to watch: The Primera Division clash will kick-off at 4 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.