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Opinion: Barcelona’s decision to back Setien a gamble ahead of crucial Champions League resumption

According to Spanish publication Sport, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has sent a stern message by backing Quique Setien’s position as boss after a shaky start.

Setien took over the Blaugrana in January after Ernesto Valverde was sacked, but the 61-year-old has endured a terrible start which has seen the club bottle the title and crash out of the Copa del Rey.

Sport report that Barcelona’s woes on the pitch, as well as the wider situation at the club has sparked ‘unrest’ in the dressing room.

Barcelona’s form once La Liga restarted ultimately cost them the title, their shakiness allowed rivals Real Madrid to snatch the triumph from their hands as they won 10 of their 11 games over this period.

Setien-Barcelona

Does Quique Setien deserve time to prove himself at Barcelona?

Considering Barcelona’s woes, Setien’s position has come under fire recently, but Bartomeu has moved to dismiss speculation that the gaffer will leave ahead of next season:

“He’s under contract. When we brought him in, we explained that it was a project for this season and the next one.”

“To judge a coach for a few months, in the middle of a pandemic, is very complicated. Arturo Vidal said the same thing: they’ve had very little time to get to know each other and work together.”

The fact that Bartomeu failed to address what impact Barcelona’s Champions League performances will have on Setien is pretty worrying.

The Catalan outfit’s head honcho also insisted that he never considered sacking Setien during the club’s disastrous La Liga run-in: 

“No, not at any moment. I know there were reports which came out and said if he didn’t win the next two matches we’d replace him with ‘Pimi’ (Garcia Pimienta) but we never spoke about that.”

“Not with Abidal, Planes or the board of directors. Setien is our head coach.”

Bartomeu was also quizzed on potential replacements, sparking comments on Laurent Blanc and Barcelona legend Xavi:

“We haven’t spoken to anybody. Not Blanc or anyone else. I’ve spoken to Xavi because we have a good relationship but he recently signed a new deal at his current club.”

“Xavi will coach Barça one day and he’ll decide when that is. And whoever brings him here will be right to do that, but only when he feels ready.”

Whilst Bartomeu’s public defence of Setien is very honourable, some supporters may question these responses, especially with the side’s return to Champions League action looming.

The Blaugrana are level with Napoli at 1-1 heading into the second-leg of the clash, but they’ll have key absences with midfielders Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal suspended for the all-important tie.

Despite Barcelona’s league run-in ending in misery, there’s no doubt that being triumphant in Europe’s premier club competition would alleviate any of these past grievances.

The issues on this matter is that following such a disastrous end to the domestic campaign, Barcelona have had the time to appoint another manager that could’ve gave them a bounce ahead of the UCL.

With experienced boss Laurent Blanc linked with the club, sticking with Setien could prove to be a costly gamble by Bartomeu and the hierarchy.

It’s harsh that a lot of the blame will rest with Setien, but there should have been fears regarding the Champions League especially before, this is the gaffer’s first experience in the competition.

Now that rescuing Barcelona’s entire season hinges on this tournament, the pressure is boiling, will an apparent distressed Blaugrana side and Setien really be successful?

The stakes were already high with the Champions League this season, as Barcelona wasted a lead in the semi-finals last season by crashing out against Liverpool at Anfield.

The Camp Nou outfit haven’t won the prestigious competition since the 2014/15 season, the tournament tree has also presented them with a decent path to the final of the competition: 

Should the Blaugrana overcome Napoli, it’s fair to say that a clash with Bayern Munich is more appealing than that of Juventus, Real Madrid or Manchester City.

With the opposite side of the draw featuring sides that aren’t as illustrious in the competition with PSG and Atletico Madrid facing minnows (in UCL terms) in Atalanta and PSG, there’s a chance that a very unexpected side will make the final.

Have Barcelona missed a crucial opportunity – that was presented by the unforeseen pandemic circumstances – to end this season on a high by avoiding the appointment of a new boss?

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