Dani Alves defends Neymar against criticism of ‘normal’ struggles

'If Neymar plays a 10 out of 10 game people want 15, 20, 30 or 100' said Dani Alves on Monday, defending his compatriot Neymar against critiques as his form has dipped with Barcelona this season.

FC Barcelona forwards Lionel Messi and Neymar arrive at a training session on Monday for Barca's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. Josep Lago / AFP / March 31, 2014
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Barcelona full-back Dani Alves believes there has been too much expectation placed upon Brazilian international teammate Neymar in his first season with the Catalan giants.

Neymar has had an up and down campaign as 14 goals in all competitions has been offset by a lack of form and fitness for much of the season.

The 22-year-old has also been under intense scrutiny due to the controversy surrounding his transfer from Santos last May with Sandro Rosell resigning as the club’s president in January as he faced legal action over misappropriation of funds in the deal.

Alves, though, is confident that his compatriot will prove his worth in the long term.

“The normal thing is what he is going through just now. The abnormal was how quickly he adapted at the start of the season,” he told a press conference ahead of Barca’s Champions League quarter-final, first leg against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

“People need to understand how things work. The change of culture, football, here everything is much more organised and difficult.

“The criticism arrived after all the controversy with his contract. Before everyone was happy, but if they paid that money it is because he is worth it.

“People have paid more for others that aren’t worth as much. In football you always have to show what you are capable of and if Neymar plays a 10 out of 10 game people want 15, 20, 30 or 100.”

Neymar is sure to start at the Camp Nou on Tuesday as he has scored Barca’s only goal in three meetings with Atletico this season, all of which have ended in draws.

Barca boss Gerardo Martino greeted the news when the two sides were drawn together in the last eight by claiming it was one of the worst draws his side could have faced.

And the Argentine has urged his side to match Atletico’s high-energy style to allow their superior technical ability to control the game.

“I think we need to match Atletico’s intensity. Our strength is playing as Barcelona always do, but we need to cope with their intensity to be able to do that.”

Atletico lead Barca by a point with seven games to go in the tightest La Liga title race in years.

Diego Simeone’s men will go into the game in high spirits after coming from behind to seal a hugely impressive 2-1 win away to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, but Martino said that result didn’t alter his impression of Atletico’s superb campaign to date.

“The truth is I didn’t need to see Atletico winning as they did in Bilbao. They have sustained a great level all season and last season too. They are in the final stages fighting for two competitions and it is clear how strong they are.

“We need to try and win and not concede to give ourselves a margin for the second leg next week in Madrid.”

Martino has no new injury problems to worry about as Pedro Rodriguez and Alex Song took part in training on Tuesday, leaving Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol as the only two senior players missing from his squad.

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