Barcelona FC coach Gerardo Martino is proud of his “side’s performance” in the 1-1 Champions League quarter-finals first leg draw at the Camp Nou.
Argentine coaches Martino and Diego Simeone have overseen three low-scoring draws between the teams this season, Atletico’s attacking threat was dealt a blow after top scorer Diego Costa, who pulled out of training on Monday with a knee injury, came off for Diego with a hamstring problem.
Gerardo Martino said this was “the game against Atlético that rendered the most goalscoring chances” but was satisfied “with how the team” fought back to get a draw.
The Catalans were pegged back in front of their vociferous home support when substitute Diego unleashed a stunner of a shot from 30 yards past goalkeeper Pinto, standing in for the injured Valdes.
Neymar restored the hosts’ pride, sweeping in powerfully across Thibault Courtois from a magnificent Andres Iniesta,s through pass.
Martino added: “This is the first time we’ve played with the ‘4 pequeños’ (four small guys: Xavi, Cesc, Iniesta, Messi) [against Atlético]. I don’t think that we have a large set of variants. We always play the same way, everyone knows how we’re going to play and we almost always win.
“It was very difficult to get in through the middle. Even more so for (Lionel) Messi, who had a couple of chances that were well saved by the keeper.
“Neymar is more comfortable on the left wing. Playing with four midfielders helps us equal their intensity. In the second half we had more amplitude and depth, more variants going forward.”
Iniesta came on for Pedro, who has been ill this week, in the one change to the 1-0 win over Espanyol last weekend, but the manager stressed that he refused to thrust the forward into the tie because his team was good going forward nonetheless.
“At the end of the match we created good attacking plays and that’s why I didn’t send in Pedro, a fourth striker, because I didn’t want to lose creativity in our elaboration of our game.”
Barca have reached the semi-final of the Champions League in the last six seasons and Martino further stressed that losing out in the same to La Liga leaders Atletico in the ongoing campaign “would be a failure.”