By Elena Gyldenkerne
BARCELONA, Aug 20 (Reuters) – Barcelona’s Gerardo Martino has an added incentive to get one over Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone when their teams clash in the Spanish Super Cup first leg on Wednesday after an incident on the pitch 25 years ago.
In an interview with Argentine television, Simeone recalled a match at the end of the 1980s when he was a raw teenager with Velez Sarsfield and Martino played for Newell’s Old Boys.
“In reality, I didn’t get him sent off but it looked like it,” Simeone, 43, told the Estudio Futbol programme last month.
“I fell over in the middle of the pitch, without meaning to. I got a yellow card and Martino a red. As I was still naive, I got another yellow soon after, and was also sent off.”
Velez won 2-1.
The contrasting approach of the Argentine midfielders – Simeone’s ball-winning industry against Martino’s creativity – is reflected in the way their current teams play.
Champions Barcelona head to the Calderon as favourites after a 7-0 rout of Levante in their La Liga opener on Sunday, while King’s Cup holders Atletico were boosted by a 3-1 victory at Sevilla – wins that were achieved in markedly different styles.
“(Atletico) are a very intense side, they are comfortable without possession of the ball and they are very direct,” Martino told a news conference on Tuesday.
“Atletico are very solid because of the way they play, they keep it going for 90 minutes and they are winners. It is an extremely tough test.”
Simeone made a virtue of Atletico’s direct play, compared to Barca’s possession-based game, when he spoke earlier on Tuesday.
“Against Sevilla we had 37 percent of the ball, but we had more shots, more corners and scored more goals,” the former Argentina captain told a news conference. “We have less of the ball because it suits the players we have.
“You can see Barca have been trying to play more with fixed wingers (under Martino…) and they put you under pressure with many players in your own half.
“When they do it well, they don’t let you breathe, so we need to look for solutions to counteract this.”
Martino raised eyebrows when he substituted World player of the Year Lionel Messi in Sunday’s game against Levante after 70 minutes despite the game being all but settled at 6-0.
The Argentine forward has not been taken off without being injured since 2010, and Martino was pressed further about his plans for Messi in future games.
“We have both talked about it and I will have to be particularly careful that I don’t withdraw him five times in a row,” Martino said.
“It’s a question of balance, I give you a little, you give me a little. I make the final decision but it’s unusual for me to do something without having first discussed it with the players.” (Writing by Mark Elkington in Madrid, editing by Rex Gowar)