Gerardo Martino admits Diego Simeone has had "a far more impressive" impact at Atletico Madrid than he has enjoyed at Barcelona.
The two Argentine coaches have guided their sides to 49 points from 18 Liga matches, meaning they both hold a five-point lead over Real Madrid going into this weekend’s top-of-the-table clash at the Vicente Calderon.
Barca and Atleti both have Copa Del Rey clashes against Getafe and Valencia, respectively, to negotiate before thier Liga showdown in the Spanish capital, but Martino was happy to talk about his compatriot.
“I think what Diego Simeone has done at Atletico Madrid is far more impressive than what I’ve done here,” the Blaugrana boss told reporters. “You have to consider the squad I have got and considering how far Cholo’s side have come on since he first arrived there.
"Is it hard to choose a team with the squad I have to choose from? If I have a problem with this squad, imagine what the rest of the coaches must think! My position is much easier."
But while the manager discussed the weekend match, he made sure to note Barca isn't looking past the cup tie, especially with a last eight place at stake.
“First, though, we must focus on Getafe. There will be enough time to think about the league and Atletico. This weekend’s match is being talked about more outside the dressing room than in it,” he said. “We want to stay in the knockout competitions. We are playing to get into the quarterfinals and one mistake could see us knocked out, which nobody wants.
To advance to the quarterfinals, Martino said, Barca will have to emulate the form it showed recently rather than the starting form it showed in its previous contest.
“Learning from the 5-2 win [just before La Liga's winter break]? We need to play the match like we did in the last 70 minutes. We cannot play like we did in the first 20 minutes where everything went wrong, although that has been an exception in the last six or seven games," he said. “You can see the team is more comfortable, both collectively and individually. We need to get better and improve with every game.
"We need to do well in the big games and maintain our constant improvement. There’s not much left, but that is the most difficult bit.”
Martino has confirmed Lionel Messi will return to the Barcelona squad for the game, although Dani Alves, Xavi and Marc Bartra miss out.