'Barcelona players would die for Martino' - Puyol

The defender has jumped to the defence of his coach and admits the Blaugrana will find it difficult to replace him any time soon

Barcelona defender Carles Puyol has defended coach Gerardo Martino, insisting the players would "die for him".

While Barca can lift the Copa del Rey this week if they beat Real Madrid in the final on Wednesday and they remain in contention for La Liga, they have fallen four points behind leaders Atletico, who knocked them out of the Champions League.

And Puyol feels the whole squad have to take responsibility for the team's failings, as opposed to just the coach.

"We can't control it," he told reporters. "It is easier to criticise the manager than 25 players. But if things go wrong it is everyone's fault.

"I wish him the best. He's a great coach and has another year of his contract. We'd die for him and him for us.

"It is tough being out of the Champions League and the next game is tough, but we have a final against a great rival and I would like to tell the fans that we will give our all and that we must stick together, and everything will be easier.

"We've messed up a few things and we are our own worst critics. Now we will fight to win the final and the last five games. We haven't given up on the league.

"We haven't had consistency, although we were expected to win in Granada. Now we have to look forwards and give our fans something to celebrate."

The veteran defender went on to praise league rivals Atletico, who could win the Spanish top flight this season and remain in the Champions League semi-finals.

"They're having a great season, like last year. They are intense, difficult to beat. They are having a spectacular season, fighting for the title and the Champions League. It's admirable."

Puyol, who will leave the club this summer, has admitted that it will be difficult for the club to find a replacement for him.

"Half of Europe is looking for one and there aren't that many. [Sporting director Andoni] Zubizarreta will find the best solution. Now is not the time to talk about it."