Soccer

Barcelona coach Martino under fire

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP)

As if the off-field saga surrounding Neymar's transfer wasn't providing enough of a distraction, now even Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino is being questioned.

Catalan sports daily Sport reports Barcelona is already looking to replace the Argentine coach before next season despite a generally positive start with the Spanish champions, who trail leader Real Madrid by three points.

Barcelona's play has been irregular at times, especially in the 3-1 loss at Real Sociedad on Saturday when Martino's tactics were exposed. His frustration boiled over as he was sent from the touchline and, on Wednesday, he was banned for the upcoming league game against Almeria.

Even Xavi Hernandez had to contain his frustration after being left on the bench against Sociedad, when the team looked as if it could use the captain's direction.

''I'm angry that I couldn't participate and I hate not being on the field of play. But you can never be above the coach,'' Xavi said on Wednesday.

''Everyone is making the coach to be 100 percent at fault. That's not fair. We're all guilty, in victory or defeat. We all made mistakes.''

Martino deployed holding midfielder Alex Song in place of Xavi, and the Cameroon international scored an own-goal as Barcelona failed to match Sociedad's game plan. After the match, Martino admitted to poorly reading the game.

''We've never, ever, doubted Martino,'' Xavi said. ''Now we just have to turn the page.''

Barcelona has been looking to turn the page more often than not of late after being charged with tax fraud over its signing of Brazil forward Neymar from Santos, with that transfer costing president Sandro Rosell his job and the club 100 million euros after originally stating the deal was worth 57.1 million.

Sport reported that Jurgen Klopp, Diego Simeone, Ernesto Valverde, Luis Enrique, and Andre Villas-Boas were on the short-list of candidates to fill in for Martino, who has one season remaining on his deal.

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