Martino relishing clash with Pellegrini

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Martino_Barcelona

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Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino. Picture: David Ramos/Getty Images

Madrid – Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has said he is looking forward to facing fellow South American Manuel Pellegrini after his side were drawn against Manchester City in the Champions League last 16 on Monday.

City were arguably the strongest opponent the La Liga leaders could have been paired with and sent a warning to the Catalans as they came back from 2-0 down to beat European champions Bayern Munich 3-2 last week before hammering Premier League leaders Arsenal 6-3 on Saturday.

There will be plenty of familiar faces for Barcelona in the City side as David Silva, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero return to Spain, whilst Yaya Toure was part of Barca's treble-winning side in 2009.

However, having followed Pellegrini's footsteps to coach in Europe after succesful stints in South America, Martino hailed the Chilean as one of the best coaches in the world.

“I always said that Manuel's road from South America to Europe interested me. He may be one of the best coaches in the world right now, so I am happy to be going up against a side managed by him.”

Martino admitted after Saturday's 2-1 win over Villarreal that he would like to cancel Christmas as his side have returned to form just in time for the Spanish winter break after Sunday's trip to Getafe.

Fortunately for the four-time European champions, World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and goalkeeper Victor Valdes should have recovered from their respective injuries in time for the first-leg in Manchester on February 18.

And Martino stressed the importance of being in top form come February.

“On the face of it they are a very strong opponent with very good players, but I also think that form will have a big part to play.

“I don't know if we will be favourites against City. However, what I do know is that Barcelona has to try and win all the competitions they play in and when you try to win all the competitions you obviously have difficult opponents to overcome. Now we have to do that against City.”

Of more immediate concern for Martino, Barca face the formality of a Copa del Rey fourth round, second-leg against third-tier Cartagena on Tuesday.

With the Catalans already 4-1 in front from the first-leg, the Argentine has rested Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets from his 16-man squad. – Sapa-AFP


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