Barça heads south to face Atlético Madrid at the Vicente Calderón for the first time in La Liga this season, and Tata doesn’t think that Saturday’s match will decide the league title, although he claims it would be a boost for either team. Read more about what Tata Martino had to say in regards to the match and Messi’s involvement after the jump.
Both teams head in to this match sharing the same amount of points at the top of the table, yet Tata doesn’t think it will decide the title race as he claims that it’s too early in the season to judge. “There’s still half a season to go and I can’t see it as being a game that decides the league.” Tata did however give Saturday’s match the importance that it merits. “I do think it’s important for both teams’ immediate future, both domestically and in Europe. It’s important in psychological terms.”
The coach was also full of praise for the Rojiblancos. “They are a very strong team – one of the most serious and solid sides in Europe. It looks like we’re in for a great game. We are much better, both collectively and as individuals, than five months ago when we played them in the Supercopa. Atlético Madrid have kept playing at a great level since then.”
Tata still believes that there’s more to his team, although he is convinced that the team is more or less back to its best. “We have to be more clinical in front of goal than we were in the Super Cup. We are playing at our best, but I like to think that we aren’t at our limit just yet and that we can get even better.”
The Argentine boss is still cautious about Messi’s condition and although he claims he’s fine, he doesn’t want to take any risks with the world’s best player. “Messi is fine – everybody saw that in midweek. However, he’s been out for a long time and we’ll have to decide whether he’s ready yet to play the full 90 minutes of such a demanding match. We can’t forget that he’s been out for 60 days and only played 30 minutes. I’ve not spoken with Messi about it yet, though I do talk a lot to him. All that he could say now is that he feels fit enough to start in case we need him.”
Tata Martino has already decided on the 22 men who’ll be traveling to Madrid for Saturday’s match. With Neymar, Bartra, and Dani Alves included, the squad looks pretty strong. One surprise inclusion was Ibrahim Affelay, who hasn’t featured in a long time. Although the Boss admitted that Ibrahim still hasn’t got his medical green light, he said, “It seemed right to me that all of the players that are training normally should be there.”
Photo: FCB Miguel Ruiz