Martino defends decision to bench Messi, Neymar

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Messi-NeymarBarcelona boss Gerardo Martino said any coach would have taken the same decision as he did after leaving star forwards Lionel Messi and Neymar on the bench for his side`s 0-0 draw away to Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

Both Messi and Neymar were introduced after half-time, but even they couldn`t find a way through Atletico`s watertight defence as the stalemate leaves both sides still level on points at the top of La Liga.

Messi had made his comeback from two months out due to a hamstring tear in spectacular style by scoring twice as a second-half substitute against Getafe in midweek.

Neymar, meanwhile, missed that match due to a stomach virus and Martino stressed that he was merely beng prudent in not rushing both players back into action too soon.

“They were not ready to start,” he said.

“We wanted them to come on in the first 15 or 20 minutes of the second-half, but (Andres) Iniesta got a knock on his knee and Messi had to come on after half-time.

“We obviously thought he would play a little less, but I thought he looked good. He had that spark and created two chances.

“As a coach, I have to take decisions and to me that`s what seemed the right thing to do

“Neymar had a stomach problem before the game against Getafe and that always saps your energy. We only remember Messi`s goals from the other night, but we can`t forget he hasn`t played for 60 days. Any coach would have done what I did.”

Despite dropping points for just the third time in the league this season, Martino was satisfied with his team`s display, which leaves them top on goal difference exactly halfway through the league campaign.