Champions League

Barcelona manager plays down coronavirus fears ahead of Napoli test

2020-02-25 11:01
Quique Setien
Quique Setien (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Barcelona manager Quique Setien has dismissed concerns for his players over the spread of the coronavirus in Italy before Tuesday's Champions League tie against Napoli.

Italy has imposed strict quarantine restrictions in two northern regions, Veneto and Lombardy, following 152 recorded cases of the coronavirus.

Barcelona are due to play the first leg of their last-16 clash in Naples, situated in the south of Italy, and all members of their travelling party were tested for the coronavirus when they entered the country.

"No I'm not at all worried for my team," Setien told a press conference, quoted on his club's website. "I'm worried for all those infected and I send my solidarity to all those affected by the virus.

"I hope this can be resolved as soon as possible. It's something that can happen to anybody.

"You're worried for other people who are affected. (For us) it was only a test for a fever, nothing more."

Barca are currently top of LaLiga after four straight league wins, including Saturday's 5-0 thrashing of Eibar in which Lionel Messi scored four goals.

But since lifting the Champions League crown in 2015, the Catalan club have lost in three quarter-finals and last season's semi-final, to Liverpool, and Setien is wary of Napoli's threat at the Stadio San Paolo.

"I'm definitely expecting the best Napoli side," he said. "I know what they're capable of doing, not just in the Champions League knockout stages, but also in the group stage.

"They have done very well up against some top-class opposition and I'm sure they are going to be extraordinary (on Tuesday)."

Former Real Betis coach Setien was appointed by Barca on January 13 after Ernesto Valverde was sacked.

He said: "It's my first game in the Champions League. It has a special motivation behind it and it's exciting for me."

Barca's visit to the San Paolo has prompted comparisons between Messi and fellow Argentinian Diego Maradona, who played for both clubs, and Setien added: "(To play) in a stadium like this, full of passion, full of history... It's going to be very exciting."

Napoli appear to have halted a poor run of form under boss Gennaro Gattuso, winning four of their last five Serie A matches.

They have slipped to sixth in the table, but beat Liverpool at home earlier in the season and drew 1-1 at Anfield before finishing second behind the Merseysiders in Group E.

Gattusso, quoted on his club's website, told a press conference: "We face a team that sometimes looks like they're on another planet.

"I also know something about it as a footballer. When I played against Barca it seemed that they were from another category because they didn't let you see the ball.

"We know therefore that (on Tuesday) we will face an opponent of a stratospheric level, and we know that the risks are big, but having said that I don't want my players to be afraid.

"Respect for Barcelona is maximum, but I want a Napoli that is not afraid and that will play with their heads held high."

Of Messi, Gattuso added: "I see what Messi does when I play Playstation with my son. He is a champion who has unrepeatable numbers and who is also an example for children in how he has led his career.

"He has been playing for years that are unimaginable; the only difference is that today he has a beard, but he remains the best of all."

- TEAMtalk media

 

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