Champions League - Martino: Barca working on mistakes

Tata Martino is looking forward to his Champions League debut and has pressed on Barcelona’s need to adapt and to make fewer mistakes in games.

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Barcelona's coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino (Reuters)

The Catalans begin their European campaign this Wednesday with Group H’s opening fixture at home to Ajax, which will mark their new Argentine Coach’s debut in the Champions League.

“It's clear that for every Coach to have the chance to be in the Champions League is very relevant in his career,” Martino reflected to reporters in his pre-match conference today.

“I am very excited about it, although obviously I feel nervous about us living up to our standards in such a prestigious competition.

“We have spoken about what has happened in the last two league games, especially in the second halves. Players have to make the right decision at the right time, be more direct when they can and be less direct when they can’t. We carry on growing and improving because the players are very capable of doing so. We have to correct things, but that is based on victories, which is a comfortable situation.”

Martino was asked of the team’s focus this season and if priority is on the Champions League, after last year’s 7-0 aggregate semi-final defeat to Bayern Munich.

“When I took on the Barcelona job, I knew that if we didn't win a title this season it would be a failure. If I am here it's because I believe we can repeat the glorious moments of the club in recent seasons.

“The team achieved excellency recently and that is hard to equal. No-one can deny Bayern are amongst the best clubs in the world, so it's feasible to lose that kind of match.

“There's always a prioritisation of the tournaments you're involved in. I feel that Barcelona has to win this competition.

“We're in three competitions and we have to reach the final stages of all three. We try to get the players to make different decisions, to weigh up whether to attack more or less.

“We practice that in training sessions. The other day against Sevilla, in the last 15 minutes we shouldn’t have put the match at risk.

“Everything needs a period of adaptation. We need to adapt now that this competition has started.”

Scrutiny is once more on the team’s defence, having conceded two late on at home to Sevilla at the weekend.

“I think our obligation is to be permanently self-critical. We have made mistakes in every match and that needs resolving.

“They have been different mistakes to the ones we made in the Spanish Super Cup. I have to be used to criticism at a club who plays excellent football.

“We want to improve every day, be more solid, much more convincing. On the other hand, despite the mistakes, we have won four league games and won a trophy.

“No problem in football is unsolvable so if something needs changing, then we will. Barcelona have had problems with set pieces, which is more of a physical problem and we can't find a solution to that.

“Instead we have to find a better way of defending to be as efficient as possible. It's true that the central defenders have had to run a lot and we need the team to be much more solid so players don't need to run as much.

“But sometimes the central defenders will have to run back to protect the ‘keeper.”

Martino was asked of Lionel Messi’s condition. Discussion has focused in recent weeks on Barca’s reported request for the player to be rested from Argentina’s October World Cup qualifiers.

“Leo Messi has to be one of the players that has featured fewer minutes.

“He was out against Malaga, he played 45 minutes against Atletico Madrid in the first leg and with Argentina he only played one match, so he is fit.

“He has recovered from that hamstring blow against Atletico so we think he's fine to carry on playing. We will see what happens in the future and how or when we rest him.”

Summer signing Neymar is in contention for a competition debut tomorrow evening.

“It's Neymar's first match in the Champions League, the first of many in his career. His career has just started because he’s very young and has a lot ahead of him.

“The players are just as excited as I am, the veterans and the new ones, we all have the same excitement.

“Neymar is helping the team a lot not just in the attack but also in defensive tasks. If he does well, then the coaching staff will also do well.”

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