Sports / Soccer

Martino puts faith in playing decider at home

By Agence France-Presse in Madrid (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-13 07:20

Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino believes playing at home could give his side the edge as it looks to snatch the Spanish title away from Atletico Madrid by beating its rival on Saturday.

The fight for the title will go to the final weekend after Atletico failed to take advantage of Barca's 0-0 draw away to Elche as it was held 1-1 at home to Malaga.

Atletico leads Barca by three points, but the Catalans will take a 23rd La Liga title with a victory, thanks to a better head-to-head record.

"We are going to need the support of the fans so that the players on the field can feel it and feed off it," said Martino.

"It has not been a season in which we have shone a lot, but with the help of the fans we can win the league."

Barcelona got off to a bright start as Andres Iniesta struck the bar with a volley from outside the box, but it was stifled by the host's well-organized defense .

And Martino admitted he was afraid to risk everything in search of the three points as losing would have ended Barca's title challenge.

"It was one of those matches in which you have a strange feeling, especially after Andres' shot. We began to make mistakes and sometimes lacked the patience needed due to desperation," said the coach.

"We were playing with the result in our game and that with Atletico. At the end we didn't know if we should risk too much or if a goal from them would take us out of the race."

In the end it was Atletico that ended the day disappointed as it missed the chance to seal its first La Liga title in 18 years by only managing a point at home to Malaga.

However, it has yet to lose to Barca in five meetings between the two in all competitions this season and Atletico captain Gabi remains confident it can get the point it needs at the Camp Nou.

"We still believe in this team. We are Atletico and we are going to go there to win," he said.

"We wanted to be champions today for all our fans, but we will give everything in Barcelona to do it and we are used to playing finals."

Atletico boss Diego Simeone hailed his players efforts despite failing to get the win they needed and said he would have been delighted with the situation they find themselves in at the start of the season.

"If you had told us at the start of the season that we would play the last game in the Camp Nou with a three-point advantage over Barca no one would have believed it.

"Now, like in every final, there is a 50-50 chance for both teams.

"We remain humble, but what this team has done has been marvelous and come about thanks to a huge effort. Hopefully we can round it off at the Camp Nou."

(China Daily 05/13/2014 page24)

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