Martino relieved as Barca survive scare
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino admitted his side weren’t at their free-flowing best as they were lucky to escape with a 1-0 victory away to Malaga on Sunday night.
Without the injured Lionel Messi, Barca struggled to break down a stubborn Malaga side but did manage the only goal of the game thanks to Adriano’s 20 yard effort just before halftime.
The visitors were, however, given two huge let offs in the second-half as Fabrice hit the post for Malaga before Victor Valdes made a crucial save from Sebastian Fernandez in the final minute.
“At times we weren’t as effective as we could have been,” Martino told a press conference afterwards.
“In the first-half we had chances and control of the game, but we couldn’t maintain the same control of the ball in the second-half and they had two clear chances, one against the post and the other that Victor managed to save.
“We didn’t take advantage of the times when we had space in the second-half.”
Despite Messi’s absence, Martino decided to leave Neymar on the bench for the third consecutive game, but the Brazilian was once again bright when he came on for the final half hour and even forced Willy Caballero into a fine save from a well-struck free-kick.
“You can already see the difference in him between the last two matches and the first league match against Levante,” added Martino.
“I don’t know when exactly we will decide to start him but you can see mentally he is ready and we will do it at the most opportune time.
“He only played half an hour but he was always doing positive things for the team.”
Neymar’s time could come in the return leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night and Martino is also confident that Messi could be fit to face Diego Simeone’s men.
“He has trained today and we will see how he feels tomorrow.
“We have two days to make a decision, but with the information that I have today we are very happy with how he is recovering.”