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Martino hails 'best' Barca show

Updated: 2013-12-13 07:26
By Agence France-Presse in Barcelona ( China Daily)

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said his team produced its best display in his time in charge as it ensured top spot in Champions League Group H with a 6-1 thrashing of Celtic on Wednesday.

Gerard Pique opened the scoring for the host early on, but then Neymar took center stage as the Brazilian set up the second goal for Pedro Rodriguez before going on to score his first Barcelona hat-trick.

A deflected effort from Cristian Tello and a late consolation goal from Giorgios Samaras rounded out the scoring.

Martino was delighted with how his squad reacted to recent criticism following defeats away to Ajax and Athletic Bilbao.

"It was the best we have been in these four months in terms of the level of our play, our effectiveness and how we managed to maintain that level for the majority of the game. Apart from the last five minutes, we were excellent," he said.

"Barcelona always plays very well with the ball and what we needed was the intensity to win it back.

"Today, we had both the concentration and intensity to win it back high up the field. We moved the ball around when we need to and played more directly when the move demanded it."

In the absence of injured Lionel Messi, the focus has been on Neymar to start producing the scoring form that persuaded Barca to spend $78 million on him back in May.

Until Wednesday, the Brazilian had only netted five goals in 20 games.

Martino said during the pre-match media conference that goals would finally come, but warned against piling too much pressure on the 21-year-old given the workload he has already had in 2013.

"He always responds, whether he is playing on the wing or, like today, through the middle.

"But we have to remember that Neymar has had a very difficult year given what he did at Santos, then his arrival in Barcelona, being the main player at the Confederations Cup, not having a preseason, and then traveling so much with his national team.

"For him it is not halfway through the season but near the end ... and he needs to rest at some point.

"We hope to give him that rest and hopefully he will return in good shape after the winter break."

Barca must now wait until Dec 16 to see which team it will face in the knockout stages come February, with English sides Manchester City and Arsenal seeming to be its most difficult potential opponents.

However, Martino wants his side to forget about the Champions League for a couple of months and concentrate on domestic matters in La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

"We need to see how we are in 60 days. The only thing we can do is prepare well. In the meantime we have other duties to take care of in the league and Copa del Rey.

"We have done what we needed to do in the Champions League and now we need to wait and see what happens."

(China Daily 12/13/2013 page23)