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Martino: Barcelona not afraid of Madrid physicality

The manager is not concerned by Madrid's "violent play," noting the referee is there to intervene when the rivals meet Saturday.

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino says his side is not afraid of "violent play" from Real Madrid, claiming the referee will keep the game in check.

In the two league meetings between the teams last season, 16 yellow cards and one red card were handed out in the tightly contested affairs. Martino insists the physicality of los Blancos will not affect the outcome of the game, or help them slow down Blaugrana superstar Lionel Messi.

“Am I afraid of Madrid’s violent play? No, every team plays according to their possibilities and there’s a referee who should judge,” he told reporters. “With Paraguay, I faced [Messi] three times and we could never stop him. It depends on him having his day.”

The former Newell’s Old Boys coach says he has had his team picked for the game for a few days now. The lineup will include Gerard Pique, whose error against Milan cost the team a win.

“I already had the lineup for tomorrow decided before the game against AC Milan. I would only have changed if something happened,” he said. “[Andres] Iniesta, Cesc [Fabregas] and Xavi are all great and would play everywhere. By leaving players out I’m always close to committing an injustice. I’m at a club but sometimes feel like I’m coaching a national team because of all the quality players and the little time we get to prepare for games.”

Despite consecutive draws with Osasuna and Milan, Martino says he remains pleased with the efforts of his side, but says its accuracy in front of goal needs some work.

“What Barcelona almost always do is play a good game, but we don’t always win," he said. “In the last two games we missed something I never thought we’d miss: capacity to finish chances."

And the 50-year-old concluded by sharing his excitement ahead of taking charge of Barca in his first Clasico.

“It’s the first time I’ll play such a big game in Europe. In that perspective, Ancelotti has more experience,” he said. “You have ‘Clasicos’ everywhere, but this one is followed all around the world. I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think there's a favorite to win.”