Barcelona record and injuries are on Martino's mind

Mon Nov 25, 2013 3:30pm EST
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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino had an injury crisis and the prospect of setting a record-equaling unbeaten start to a season to think about on the eve of Tuesday's Champions League tie at Ajax Amsterdam.

Lionel Messi, Xavi and Victor Valdes lead a long list of players in the treatment room while Alexis Sanchez is suspended for a Group H match in which leaders Barca need a point to qualify for the last 16.

By avoiding defeat Martino will also tie the club's longest unbeaten opening to a campaign - 21 matches set by Pep Guardiola's 2011-12 side.

"There are going to be comparisons with recent years especially with the results we have been having recently," the coach told reporters on Monday.

"It is difficult for me to judge what the team was like before I was here. We need to keep winning and improving so that we can achieve what the club has done recently and what is expected of us."

Barca always go out to win, said the Argentine, adding: "That is what we will do against Ajax. If you are without players like Messi, Xavi, Jordi Alba it is not as easy but I have belief in the players and I will put out the best side I can.

"If you are missing the best player (Messi) then it is a benefit for the other side but we have a big and strong enough squad to cope. It is not such a big problem."

While Barca have several options going forward, they will be forced to field a makeshift defense with full backs Alba, Adriano and Dani Alves all injured.

It means that center half Carles Puyol could play on the right and Martin Montoya on the left.   Continued...

Barcelona's coach Gerardo Martino reacts during their Champions League soccer match against AC Milan at the San Siro stadium in Milan, October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini