Quique Setien has rejected Lionel Messi’s claim that Barcelona were on course for more Champions League disappointment while admitting there is plenty of room for improvement at the club.
The Catalans have endured a mixed 2019-20 season to date, holding a slim lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga despite suffering five defeats to date but bombing out of both the Supercopa and Copa del Rey, the former of which cost Setien’s predecessor Ernesto Valverde his job.
And while a 1-1 draw in the last-16 opener away to Napoli left Barca as favourites to advance to the next stage, Messi publicly wrote off their Champions League chances if they did not up to their game.
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“I never doubted the squad we have and I have no doubt that we can win all that remains, but not by playing in the way we were playing,” Messi, who has won four Champions League titles, told Sport .
“Now, everyone has their opinion and they are all very respectable. Mine is based on the fact that I was lucky to play in the Champions League every year and I know that it is not possible to win it by playing as we have been playing.”
Setien, though, believes that he could crown his debut season as coach at Camp Nou with the trophy and insisted that his view was shared by the rest of the Barca dressing room.
“Messi’s words I think have created a big debate,” the ex-Betis coach explained to BeinSports.
“We are convinced that we can win the Champions League. We have to improve some things, but without a doubt we are convinced that the team has the potential to win the Champions League.
“We can win it. We are convinced we can win the Champions League, of course we can.”
At a time when Barcelona have been closely linked to Lautaro Martinez, the Inter forward mooted as a possible heir to Luis Suarez at No.9, Setien signalled that the Uruguayan was on the road to recovery following a knee operation he underwent at the start of 2020.
“He is not completely recovered, but I think he is in good shape and he has been working with the squad for a few days,” the coach added.
“We noticed he lacked a bit of confidence and form. When we start playing, we will see his preparations.
“We are very happy with the commitment and performance of the players since coming back, although right now we are concentrating above all on the physical side.”
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