MADRID, Spain, November 1 – Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said he is not worried about Lionel Messi’s month-long La Liga goal drought as Barca prepare to face Espanyol on in the Catalan derby on Friday.
Messi hasn’t scored in the league since pulling up with a thigh strain in the 2-0 win at Almeria on September 28.
The Argentine subsequently missed the 4-1 drubbing of Valladolid at the Camp Nou and only came on for the final 30 minutes of the 0-0 draw at Osasuna.
He returned to the starting line-up for the victories over Real Madrid and Celta Vigo in the past week without managing to find the net, but Martino believes his compatriot is being unfairly treated due to the incredibly high standards he has set in recent seasons.
“Messi has made us accustomed to an average of three goals a game,” said Martino.
“He can play a very, very good match like he did at Celta and not score a goal and it seems like there is a problem.”
And rather than considering a rest for Messi, given Barca’s hectic schedule with three more games in the next week, Martino says the four-time World Player of the Year needs more game time to get up to full speed.
“We cannot think about taking care of players so that they don’t get injured, we are only trying to ensure that they don’t end up fatigued and tired.
“In the case of Leo, with what has happened against Atletico and Almeria he has already had two episodes and what he needs now is a run of games.
“When we talk about Leo we are talking about someone whose footballing repertoire never ends. Even a bad game for him always produces something good.”
On the injury front Martino has a problem at left-back for the visit of Espanyol as Adriano has joined Jordi Alba on the sidelines with a hamstring problem, so right-back Martin Montoya is expected to start in an unfamiliar role.
Elsewhere on the field, though, Barca are likely to be back to full strength with Gerardo Pique, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Neymar all returning after being rested against Celta.
And Martino is expecting a tough test from Barca’s modest neighbours.
“Winning would allow us to continue as leaders. The important thing is we concentrate on how we play, maintain our style and do things well.
“One of the characteristics of Espanyol is to be very aggressive and combative, but when they have the ball they can also play with players like Sergio Garcia, Pizzi and Simao.”