Setien: Little said about Anfield and Olimpico
Quique Setien insists Barcelona have not spent much time talking about their Champions League exits at the hands of Liverpool and Roma ahead of their latest attempt to navigate the knockout stage.
Barca are in Italy ahead of facing Napoli in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday. The clash comes after they infamously lost a three-goal first-leg lead in last season's semi-finals at Anfield, a year on from an away quarter-final collapse at the Stadio Olimpico.
While they fell to a Copa del Rey defeat against Athletic Bilbao this month, four straight LaLiga wins have Barca two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table, a run head coach Setien believes has his team battle-hardened. A first Champions League success since 2015 is perhaps the most alluring prize still available for Barca and Setien, who is preparing to take charge of his first match in the competition.
"The reality is that very little has been said about what has happened, although surely everyone has it in mind," Setien said at his pre-match news conference when asked about Barca's recent European exits. Perhaps it is not comparable. Now we are carrying a very good dynamic and the morale is very positive. The team is in a good moment, like Napoli are. We have had tremendously hard matches in the league and lived through them, so I think the team is fine. I trust we will continue in this dynamic, can maintain the level we have been giving and can keep it going for a long time."
Setien has told his players to expect Napoli to rise to the occasion under Gennaro Gattuso.
"It's a game that I think will be exciting – I hope that it goes down in history because we have played well and shown personality," added Setien. "I always tell the players that we have to expect the best version of our opposition. Every team needs to give their all and this match will be no different. I know what Napoli are capable of doing. In the group stage, they did very well up against some top-class sides. I'm sure they will produce an extraordinary performance.
"It's my first game in the Champions League and that is a special motivation for me. It's very exciting to start this stage of the Champions League in a stadium like Stadio San Paolo, full of passion, full of history."