Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino does not believe that a win over Real Madrid in Tuesday’s Copa del Rey final will make amends for their recent struggles or placate his growing number of critics.
Barcelona enter the high-profile match having suffered a disastrous past week. Following a loss to Atletico Madrid to crash out of the Champions League they suffered a defeat to Granada that leaves them four points off the pace in La Liga. Many believe Martino’s fate has already been sealed after just one season at the helm. But, while the Copa del Rey now represents their best chance to salvage some silverware from this season, Martino is under no illusions that it can mask their failures in their two most important competitions this campaign.
“I don't see it as a way of making amends,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily, Marca. “You shouldn't try to find solutions for stuff that happened in another competition. What happened is in the past now, and we're still hurting from it."
“I don't want to try and cover my back for what we didn't achieve in other competitions. This competition has its own merit but it doesn't mean that we can forget about our feelings from the others. Whatever the outcome tomorrow, opinions of my overall performance will not be positive. That's the price you pay for being here.”
Martino claimed that Barcelona will win if they are at their best. That, though, is a tough ask given a rash of defensive injuries. With Gerard Pique already ruled out, Barcelona also have major doubts over Marc Bartra and Carles Puyol, who has not played for over a month. Barcelona-based publication Sport believes that both are likely to miss out, with Martino minded to move full-back Adriano into the center of defense.
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Real Madrid’s main injury doubt has already lost his fitness race, with Cristiano Ronaldo ruled out of the clash at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium with knee and thigh muscle injuries. Manager Carlo Ancelotti refuted suggestions that Ronaldo should have been rested before contracting the problems and explained that no chances could be taken over him now with the title run-in and Champions League semifinal first leg against Bayern Munich to come next week.
"I found out this morning that he was unavailable, Ancelotti said at his press conference on Tuesday, according to Marca. “We're going to miss a player with incredible quality, but perhaps his absence will motivate everyone even more. The games we've played without him we've performed well in, running more and playing more as a team.”
"Cristiano wasn't rested before because he didn't need to be. It would be risky playing him tomorrow and we have very important games to come. He will come to Valencia to watch the match.”
Real Madrid, who will also be without Marcelo for the final, come into the match following a 4-0 victory over Almeria on Saturday to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund that so nearly ended their Champions League hopes. But Madrid will be looking to get their first positive result in a Clasico under Ancelotti, having lost 2-1 and 4-3 to Barcelona in their league encounters this season.
The Italian is taking nothing for granted, despite Barcelona’s poor form, and knows his side will have to be mistake-free this time to avoid throwing away an advantage as they did when the sides met last month.
"They're still attacking well and having a lot of possession,” he explained. “Their most important quality is their possession and in order to beat them we have to have more than them. We played really well in the second league meeting. We competed well, made some small mistakes and we have to be focused for the whole game.”
D: Alves, Adriano, Mascherano, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Fabregas
F: Neymar, Messi, Iniesta
D: Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrao
M: Modric, Alonso, Isco
F: Di Maria, Benzema, Bale
Where to watch: The Copa del Rey final will kick off at 3.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN and ESPN Deportes, with a live stream available on Watch ESPN.