Setien optimistic on Barca’s chances in Champions League, despite Messi doubts
MADRID, Feb 21, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Barcelona coach Quique Setien has insisted they can win the Champions League, despite Lionel Messi claiming the team are not playing well enough to go all the way in Europe this season.
Setien also rejected suggestions his players could be affected by off-field problems at Barca after Messi reiterated his disagreements with technical secretary Eric Abidal in an interview with Mundo Deportivo this week.
Messi said, “the way we are at the moment, I don’t think it’s enough to win the Champions League”. Barcelona play away at Napoli in the last 16 on Tuesday.
Asked about Messi’s interview, Setien said on Friday: “There are things that I agree with and others evidently… I have seen every year how Champions Leagues are won and I think we could have the same chance as other teams.
“It is true that there is no margin for error and there are things we have to try to improve and do better. We are not happy with everything but I think we are growing little by little and we are reaching levels that will allow us to challenge.”
Messi also said he felt “attacked” by Abidal, who suggested last month the players were the main reason Ernesto Valverde was sacked, and described as “strange” allegations that a PR company, hired by the club, posted messages online criticising the players.
Barcelona face a crucial week in which they play Eibar in La Liga on Saturday and Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, five days after their trip to Napoli.
Setien says his players will not be affected by controversies off the pitch. “There are lots of things you might think affect us but in reality, it’s not like that because we are very focused on what we have to do, on football issues.
“We know everything that goes on but we try not to let it influence the team and I can assure you that it doesn’t.”
Setien could give Martin Braithwaite his debut against Eibar after Barcelona capitalised on a curious La Liga rule that enables clubs to sign if they have lost a player to injury for more than five months. – ‘Good brain too’ –
Barca paid Braithwaite’s 18 million-euro buy-out clause to snatch him from Leganes, who are 19th and left without their top scorer.
“Martin is a player we have been following for a long time,” said Setien. “He has some characteristics that will help us a lot.
“He’s a boy that fits the needs we have and we have a lot of confidence he will help us. Not only is he a good footballer but he has a good brain too.”
Setien insists Braithwaite will not just be used as cover. “I’m sure in some games we will use him from the start, maybe it’s a bit early now,” Setien said.
“He comes in decent form but there are some ideas we have to explain to him.”
Braithwaite’s arrival followed Ousmane Dembele being ruled out for six months with a hamstring tear. Jordi Alba will also miss the game against Eibar with a hamstring problem while Luis Suarez is recovering after knee surgery.