Barcelona Coach Tata Martino has spoken of his admiration for his Rayo Vallecano counterpart Paco Jamez.
The sides meet on Saturday with Rayo struggling near the foot of the table but the Barca boss has revealed that he’s been impressed by Jemez this season.
When the sides met earlier in the season Barca ran out 4-0 winners but it was Rayo who dominated the ball, taking a majority of possession.
Martino told his pre-match Press conference that Jemez’s insistence on sticking to his principles is commendable.
“Jemez is very brave. I admire those who try to do more with a team that isn’t the richest,” Martino said.
“Rayo are committed to having more of the ball than the opponent, or to at least try to.
“He has character to persist with that approach. It is laudable and causes me great admiration.”
Martino added however that the Barca that played Rayo in September isn’t the same one as will take to the field this weekend.
“What’s changed? Well now we average 79% or 80% of possession,” Martino argued.
Martino was also asked if there is a chance Neymar could be involved in the League match after returning to training following his sprained ankle, or if the Brazil forward would be saved for the midweek Champions League tie.
“He’s trained well and now has to compete with everyone else,” Martino said.
“And then I’ll decide who starts.
“I’ve not seen Neymar affected by [the contract wrangle following his move from Santos].
“These issues have nothing to do with his football and he doesn’t look affected.
“We have to win to stay top of the League and tomorrow we’ll decide how is best to reintroduce Neymar.”
Martino, who confirmed Xavi Hernandez will not feature against Rayo due to a lack of fitness and Lionel Messi is available despite a flu bug causing him to vomit mid-match against Real Sociedad on Wednesday, went on to say that while he understands why people are talking about the Champions League now, he is focused on Rayo.
“It’s normal there’s talk about the Champions League considering the match we’ve been given.
“I’m not concerned about that now though. We’re fully focused on the match [against Rayo]. Nothing should distract us from that.”