Quique Setien hinted at a tactical ‘variable’ for Barcelona in the Champions League, because ‘Napoli have evolved and improved a great deal’ since February.
The first leg ended 1-1 back in February at the Stadio San Paolo and the decider for this Round of 16 is on Saturday at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT).
“The sensations from the last game were positive. We needed a break after so many consecutive matches in La Liga, as we were getting tired, but had enough time to train, recharge the batteries and prepare for this game,” said the coach in his press conference.
Arturo Vidal and Sergio Busquets are suspended, with Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, Jean-Clair Todibo and rebel Arthur Melo unavailable, so Barca have called up nine youth team products.
“The line-up has been pretty clear for a few days already. It’s true that the position of some players could change, based on circumstances, but I’ve got the starting XI.”
There is a great deal of tension around Camp Nou, with reports Setien could be fired and Arthur refusing to play in the Champions League after his transfer to Juventus was completed.
“I knew you’d ask me about this,” smiled the tactician. “The truth is that the thought never crossed my mind this might be the last game at Barcelona. We focused only on this match, aware we can reach the Final Eight in Lisbon.
“I spoke to Arthur before he left for Brazil, so all I’ve been able to ascertain is via the club. It’s a situation that transcends my position. I would’ve preferred a different situation and that is all I can say.
“Obviously, having more options to choose from would be better. We have many of the Barca B players here with us and they can help. The circumstances are what they are and we have to adapt. Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati are in good shape, have done pretty well so far and they could potentially start.”
Napoli were still getting to grips with new coach Gennaro Gattuso in February, but have now won the Coppa Italia.
“The Napoli we saw in the first leg has evolved and improved a great deal, they are an excellent team,” assured Setien.
“They are not a defensive side, as with Gattuso they’ve had more possession than anyone else in Serie A. They know how to defend, but also to attack well and can hurt the opposition.
“We studied Napoli carefully and the various situations that could develop. We want to force them to spend most of their time defending, because their forwards are dangerous for us.”
There have been reports in Spain that Barcelona could move to a three-man defence for this match.
“We considered more or less everything and have decided on a particular version, but I can’t talk about that now. Napoli can hurt us when they have the ball at their feet and are so strong on attacking transitions. They are very disciplined, close the spaces, and have a lot of quality.
“As for us, we’ve lacked consistency this season, but have been working to correct the errors. We must learn when to hold the ball, attack with pace or defend. If we keep the ball, then it’ll be harder for Napoli to score, but we also won’t give up on our vertical runs, because that’s our style.
“It is not true that Barcelona lost their identity. We’ve always talked about the DNA of Barcelona, but each coach tries to marry that with his own philosophy.
“I cannot decide if we win or lose, but I can say we are preparing this match for a victory and to make our fans happy.”
Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £9.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://www.premiersports.com/subscribenow