Martino looking for Barça response
© AFP

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has urged his side to bounce back from their first defeat of the season to Ajax in midweek when they travel to face Athletic Club tomorrow.

Various players, along with Martino himself, criticised the Catalans' lack of intensity and focus as they were beaten in Holland having already sealed their passage into the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

And he is hoping the negative reaction to their display will ensure there will be no repeat performance in what appears to be their toughest match remaining between now and the winter break in three weeks' time. "What we need to do is show a different face, we need to change what we did in the first 45 minutes, no matter who the opponent is," Martino said.

"I don't want to speak about a process. Before we had won by four goals and I would sign up to losing one game in every 20. We lacked intensity compared with Ajax who were playing with a very different need and that showed. We need to show we have learned from the errors we committed. We have spoken and we all recognise it."

Barça will once again be without long-term absentees Lionel Messi, Victor Valdes and Jordi Alba, whilst Martino confirmed Dani Alves and Carles Puyol would also miss the trip to the Basque country. Adriano and Alexis Sanchez do though return to Martino's 18-man squad, whilst Sergio Busquets will start having been rested in midweek.

Athletic are unbeaten in six games since the opening of their new stadium in September and could move up to fourth with a win following Villarreal's 1-1 draw with Malaga on Friday. Martino has consistently stressed that his side's injury problems cannot be used as an excuse given the depth of quality they have on offer.

And he said it was the strength of Athletic rather than Barça's sizeable injury list that is causing him most concern. "The opponent is very difficult, they are a team replete with technically gifted, good players and they worry me.

"It is a very important match, one which will show us where we are, independent of what happened in Ajax. We will need to be at our best to win the game. I don't think they will change how they line up because they always play in the same manner."