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Martino expects Barca backlash

Gerardo Martino expects Athletic Bilbao to be on the receiving end of a Barcelona backlash on Sunday.

Barca lost their first game of the season at Ajax in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, when the Dutch champions ran out 2-1 winners at the Amsterdam Arena despite being down to 10 men for most of the second half.

The Camp Nou outfit have been imperious domestically this term, though, taking 40 points from a possible 42 to begin their defence of the Liga title in style.

Next up for Martino’s side is a trip to San Mames to face an Athletic side who are yet to lose at home this campaign, and the Argentine coach has called on his players to bounce back from a disappointing performance in the Netherlands.

“It’s clear that there were footballing issues that harmed us. We lacked intensity compared to Ajax,” the 51-year-old said.

“I hope the team plays differently to the way it did on Tuesday.

“You look for a reaction off the back of a process in which you don’t do well. I’m only looking for the team to play differently – doing that is down to everyone, those with more experience, those with less experience.”

However, Martino went on to say he is anticipating a difficult game in the Basque country, especially given Barca’s injury problems that see the likes of Lionel Messi, Victor Valdes and Jordi Alba all sidelined.

“They’re an extremely tough opponent, a team full of good players who are technically gifted … regardless of what happened on Tuesday, Athletic are going to demand the best from us to win the game,” he added.

Sat 30 November, 2013
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