Barcelona vs Espanyol

Tata Martino has reflected that whilst Barcelona have room to improve, comparisons with past teams are not worthwhile.

The Catalans head into Friday’s meeting with city rivals Espanyol still under mild scrutiny for their developing playing style and philosophy under their Argentine tactician.

“As the manager I would like to get closer to the form Barca had two years ago, that was the best team in the history of the sport,” considered Martino in being pressed for comparisons with Pep Guardiola’s version of the team.

“There isn’t a best team in the history of football every year. The years pass for everyone.

“I know we can do better and we have an important margin of improvement, but seeing the results we’ve secured in these three months, we can only be optimistic about the future.

“I hope we can find our best form soon, but we shouldn’t always compare ourselves to past Barca teams.

 “At the beginning we had dips in form but now we are more consistent. We could still do better with controlling matches, however.

“It doesn’t suit us to have a feeling of not being in control, because our players are very decisive. The ideal is that our rivals feel as though they don’t have control.

“Emotions for the Catalan derby? I cannot answer that because this is the first time that I will experience the Catalan derby.

“A win would see us continue to lead the table. We need to do things right, maintain our game. The important thing is how we are and we need to do things right.

“Espanyol is an important match because we have to do things well. One of their characteristics is that they are courageous. They are combative but when they have the ball they can push forward with players like Sergio Garcia, Pizzi and Simao. They are noted for fighting but they cannot be neglected for when they have the ball.”

Martino was also asked of Lionel Messi’s perceived dip in form.

“He’s very strong mentally. I have no worries whatsoever when it comes to him, the only thing we want is for him be match fit.

“I do not think there needs to be special care for him to avoid injury again. There are situations that we give thought to and so that they are prevented. But injuries happen. We cannot think that we have to take care so that he avoids injury.

“His form? Messi has gotten us used to him scoring three goals per game and anytime he doesn’t we think something is wrong. He can play well and not score, like what happened in Vigo.”

Espanyol boss Javier Aguirre meanwhile has admitted that his side face a tough challenge at Camp Nou, but is confident that they can come away with a good result.

“It is very difficult to go to the Camp Nou. It is very difficult to gain a foothold whatever the circumstances, without Messi, with injuries or suspensions,” considered Aguirre in his pre-match address.

“But anyone who believes that we are going there to lose is wrong. My dressing room is very focused and serious.

“If all comes together for us then we will have many options to score points. We are a competitive team, seasoned and we will try to do things right.

“With the ball and without the ball we must play a perfect match because Barca can decide the game in a second.

“We have to play a great game with no mistakes if we are to win. If we get scared and have doubts, we will suffer. We should be bold from the first minute.

“We have a style of play and they have theirs. Playing fairly we will try to do our best to pick up points. We are hoping for three, it would be good for the club and the team.”

Kick off: Friday, November 1, 2013 – 20.00 UK