Win Shows Why Tata Is Still the Man to Take Barca Forward

Jason PettigroveContributor IMarch 29, 2014

Lionel Messi scored the vital winner to keep Barcelona in the La Liga title hunt.
Lionel Messi scored the vital winner to keep Barcelona in the La Liga title hunt.Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona didn't have to travel far to play city rivals Espanyol

Only a few miles separates Camp Nou from the Cornella El Prat stadium, and this Catalan derby had more at stake than just local pride.

The earliest of weekend kick-offs would see Barca go top of the league again were they to win, which was unthinkable before the Clasico of one week ago.

Tata Martino had chosen to rest players again for the game. 

Neymar continues to play despite patchy form.
Neymar continues to play despite patchy form.Manu Fernandez


One of the chief protagonists against Real Madrid, Andres Iniesta was left on the bench along with Alexis Sanchez. Pedro Rodriguez came in for the latter while Cesc Fabregas dropped more into the midfield.

Much has been made of Martino's continued tinkering. It would be a valid argument if one were to suggest that so many changes disrupt the rhythm and flow of Barca's play.

After all, when Pep Guardiola did the impossible and won all six cups in a calendar year, it was done with the same staffing week in, week out.

Ah yes, Guardiola. To whom we continue to bow. "The best Barca manager ever," apparently.

Yet Martino continues to enjoy the same level of success as his contemporary.

As Spanish football expert Graham Hunter noted for Newstalk:

Barcelona have begun to resemble what they were under Pep Guardiola. Not identical but much more similar to it and at this stage of the season, his 40 game total is equal to or better than Guardiola's 40 games in all four seasons.

Just ponder that for a second.

A manager whom many believe to be the antithesis of what Barca are all about actually has the same — or better — record than the man who everyone continues to put at the top of the tree.

The match against Espanyol represented a huge test of Martino's credentials after the Blaugrana had snuck back into the title picture, and he passed it with aplomb.

Martino's record compares favourably to Pep Guardiola.
Martino's record compares favourably to Pep Guardiola.Manu Fernandez

As it turned out, the decision to rest Iniesta was the correct one.

If supporters want to be picky over team selection, then perhaps it is playing an out-of-form Neymar that should raise more eyebrows.

Javier Aguirre's men represented a significant threat to Barca's ambitions, and therefore, another professional performance was required.

It may have been backs-against-the-wall at times, but there was enough throughout the 90 minutes to suggest that this Barca are far from finished yet.

And that Tata Martino is only just getting started.