On the eve of his first-ever Champions League game, FC Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino has urged his side to improve their play.
After failing to win the Champions League title for the past two seasons, plenty of Barca fans have earmarked this year as being key to the Catalan giants’ fight back to take Europe by storm.
But it won’t be easy. Martino knows that.
“I am very excited about the chance to coach in the Champions League,” Martino admitted. “I am also a little nervous to be involved in such a prestigious competition. Barcelona have had problems dealing with set pieces and we need to find a solution to that. We want to improve every day, be more solid.”
Yet despite a lack of defensive solidity in the last few Champions League campaigns, Barca have kept their sensational domestic form going this term, as they go into Wednesday’s UCL curtain raiser with Ajax on the back of four-straight La Liga wins. Last season Barca were humbled 7-0 on aggregate by eventual winners Bayern across two semifinal encounters, and in 2011-12 they were beaten by eventual champions Chelsea. So they’ve been close to clinching Europe’s most coveted title.
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However, Barcelona’s new Argentine boss knows he needs to lift at least one title in his first season in charge. Why not the biggest in world soccer?
“When I took the job, I knew that if we didn’t win a title this season it would be a failure,” Martino said. “I believe we can repeat the glorious moments of recent seasons but matching the standards we have set will be tough. Nobody can deny that Bayern are one of the best teams in the world, so it’s understandable to lose a game like that.”
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But as Martino said, failure in the Champions League would be deemed a huge step back, once again, for Barcelona. Can they get their Group H campaign off to a flyer at a packed Camp Nou against Ajax on Wednesday night?
Find out how Barcelona get on, and all the other teams in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday, right here on ProSoccerTalk. We will have video highlights, reaction and analysis from all eight games in the UCL.