Champions League: Napoli decider make or break for Setien's Barcelona

The tie is balanced at 1-1 following the first leg in Naples, with the victor earning a ticket to the final eight tournament in Lisbon later in the month.

Quique Setien

Even though president Josep Maria Bartomeu gave Quique Setien (extreme right) a vote of confidence ahead of the second leg, it is hard to see the coach surviving a potential elimination to Napoli.   -  AP

After having three weeks to rest and process its turbulent end to the domestic campaign, Barcelona returns to action in Saturday's Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Napoli, with coach Quique Setien's future on the line.

The tie is balanced at 1-1 following February's first leg in Naples, with the victor earning a ticket to the final eight tournament in Lisbon later in the month, a solution to the competition being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Even though the draw was not the worst result for Barca, its performance was slammed by captain Lionel Messi, which declared it would have no hope of winning Europe's top prize if it continued to play as it did in Naples.

 

Messi's damning assessment of the team came home to roost when the season re-started after the coronavirus stoppage and Barca surrendered the league title to Real Madrid, prompting the captain to launch a new tirade against the team.

The Argentine's outburst was interpreted as a swipe against Setien, who had never managed a team in the Champions League until he succeeded Ernesto Valverde in January and ended the campaign shorn of credit.

Even though president Josep Maria Bartomeu gave Setien a vote of confidence ahead of the second leg, it is hard to see the coach surviving a potential elimination to Napoli.

After all, the Champions League has become an obsession for Barca ever since its last triumph in 2015, while Valverde was dismissed due to his inability to steer the team to European glory even though his side won back-to-back league titles.

 

The Catalans will be without the suspended Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal but are boosted by the return of Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong and French forwards Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann.

“The first leg was a difficult game for us, they put a lot of men behind the ball and it was not our best game or result but I believe we can do better against them now,” De Jong told Barca's website.

Napoli meanwhile is sweating on the fitness of forward Lorenzo Insigne after he hurt a thigh muscle in his team's last game of the season as it came seventh in Serie A, its worst domestic finish since 2009.

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