The coach was given the news just moments before his pre-match press conference that his dad Jorge had passed away in the Argentinian city of Rosario.
Martino kept the matter to himself and fulfilled his engagement with the media at Barca's training camp just after lunchtime yesterday and is currently making plans to travel back to South America. There had been some suggestions he may not be in the technical area for tonight's game, but the club insist he will leave the camp after the encounter.
The news meant that the pre-match chatter about Barcelona's change of approach under their new coach paled into insignificance. The Catalan giants have already won the Spanish Super Cup and are joint-top of La Liga with Atletico Madrid with maximum points from the opening four fixtures, but they are tinkering with their long-established tiki-taka style and Martino has been unhappy with their consistent failure to defend solidly for 90 minutes. They lost two second-half goals in a 3-2 league win in Valencia and conceded a two-goal lead at home to Sevilla on Saturday night before Alexis Sanchez popped up with a late winner.
As well as those concerns, defender Gerard Pique also remembers how Celtic pushed them all the way at Camp Nou last term, losing to a last-minute goal before getting them back at Parkhead and recording a 2-1 win. Considering they lost at AC Milan in the last 16, too, before being embarassed by Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, Pique has made it clear there can be no room for complacency against Ajax this evening. "This group stage can get complicated despite us doing well at this stage recently and it will not be easy for us," he said. "We want to go step by step. The team is eager to start the competition because the Champions League is prestigious and everyone wants to win the title. We always fight to win it and it is vital to start well.
"We've played for years in the same way and the coach wants to make some changes, which the players are willing to do. We have to find the right balance and it will take time."
Meanwhile, Marc Overmars, the Ajax director of football, insists the Dutch club will tap into the spirit of Celtic in a bid to beat the Catalans and leave the group of death wide open. The former Barcelona winger admits that his side are up against it tomorrow evening. "Of every 10 games between Barcelona and Ajax, Ajax would win only one," Overmars conceded. "However, we will do everything we can to make sure this is the one. Celtic would be a similar case to ours and they won last season. We have to do whatever we can to perfection, be tuned-in and hope that luck will be on our side."