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Martino: "There will be no excuses"

The Argentine spoke ahead of this weekend's tie against Betis


The club's circumstances “It's a lot easier for the players to just think about football, because that's our job. We're informed, but our focus is on the game against Betis, because it's the most important thing".

In what way does the sanction affect you? “The club's authorities have spoken about the problem. I don't want to get caught up in negative thoughts before next season. For a side that has 12 games ahead and the possibility of securing three titles, it is important to not alter the course the marked objectives".

Is Piqué out for the cup final? “We’ll have to see how it develops. We don't want to take risks with him, but it will be hard".

The media and injuries as justification "There's no valid excuses, injuries or off the pitch. If we win, we will have had a good season and if we lose, no. Nothing else interests us. We accept the problems as part of daily life at Barça. It isn't a different panoramic than what we'd had all year".

Who do you think of the top three are coming into the end of the season in the best shape? "We all have our problems. You're the people who put the importance on those who have to catch up. The season is tough, but for everyone. Injuries make it difficult and sometimes they have a bigger repercussion depending on who it is. We accept things as they come. Only three sides in Europe have things in their own hands to win three competitions, and we're one of them.

Do you see the side capable of going into a season without reinforcements? "Yes, but I don't want to adopt a stance. Also, it has to be seen. We must concentrate on what's left of the season and leave those responsible to deal with the problem. There’s nothing definitive.

Is Puyol an option? “‘Puyi’ is something we look at day upon day. It is difficult to give you a definitive answer because sometime there are unforeseen problems. Up to now, he has been a great help. We need him to help us out again. We've picked 19 players, just in case".

Do you see tomorrow's game as a banana skin? "Yes, we shouldn't fixate on Betis' situation. You can see the defeat against Málaga harmed them, but they have top players who play with heart. They're fighting for survival and we must understand we will play against a hurt side that will try and get back to normal against us".

Would a slip-up be definitive? “There's been ups and down for all three at the top. Today we all the chance to aspire to win the title. I don't want to say anything bad that were it to happen, would be definitive".

Comparisons between Messi and Neymar. “The big difference between them is the time that Leo has spent in Europe. He, also, became a player here. The big coincidence is that they're two extraordinary footballers. They're also footballers who are decisive. There are very few like them. They're both at the top level. In 30 days they can do something marvellous. We are lucky that Barcelona has both of them".

Do you think there could have been a 'black hand' involved against Barça? “If one starts to think like that, it makes it difficult to work. There's lots that's been said. What does come to my attention is the exact timing of which these things are happening. However it doesn't serve as an excuse".

Is this your most difficult season as a manager? “Yes but it's a great learning curve. I promise that when I go back to Argentina I will shut up and not say anything else, ever".

What would you say to the 'black hand'? “Nothing. We are talking about suppositions. I wouldn't like to think about football like that".

Are the club pulling one way and you the other? “Not at all. We are on the same page always, president, players and coach".

Have you spoken with the president? “We always do. I know exactly what the club is always going to do all the time, but they are those who must deal with the subject. I concentrate on footballing things".

How did you find out about the sanction and how did you react? “I didn't have a reaction, I just listened. We have to separate ourselves from this and do what we have to do".

The final half an hour of Neymar on the left against Atlético has changed anything? “There was no need for this half an hour to show that he's more comfy there, but sometimes the coach needs other things. If I were to start the next game like the game the other day, I would do so".

Masip. “He trained with the first team because we need him to be ready if we need him".

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