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Martino calls for Neymar protection

The Argentine was horrified by the rugged tactics of opposition defenders on his starlet, but downplayed the importance of his side losing their 100% record

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has criticised referees for letting opponents escape with foul play on Neymar after his side dropped their first points of the season in the 0-0 draw with Osasuna.

The forward has been embroiled in allegations of play-acting since moving to Europe this summer, as Celtic boss Neil Lennon notably struck out at what he perceived as theatrics.

Neymar was again the subject of tight marking during Saturday's stalemate, with Martino believing the hosts' got away with underhand tactics on several occasions.

"The referee again allowed defenders to kick Neymar unpunished," protested the 50-year-old to reporters. "Sometimes they should pay more attention, especially without the ball.

Martino then addressed his side's showing and insisted he was not concerned with the loss of their 100% record.

"I would be worried if I saw a set-back, but I didn't," he continued.

"We normally win such games with the chances we create. I am happy with the performance. We deserved to win and I am calm."

Defending his decision to substitute Xavi when his side was chasing a goal, Martino replied: "Xavi had played the most with the national team [in the recent international break].

"At some point, Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta have to recharge from their minutes with Spain.

"I made the decision to let [Lionel] Messi play 20 minutes to find his rhythm for the next fixtures."

The Catalans were boosted by captain Carles Puyol's return from injury, and the veteran revealed his delight at completing the entire match, though remaining unsatisfied with the draw.

"I feel better every day. I want to contribute as much as I can, both on and off the pitch," the 35-year-old said.

"We’re in good shape and we’re fighting for the same objectives. I’m happy with the way I feel but not with the result. 

"We had our chances and controlled the game. We lacked that final pass. Now we’re thinking about the game on Tuesday [against AC Milan]."

Barcelona sit top of the Primera Liga with 25 points. 

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