Barcelona manager Quique Setien has discussed his decision to leave Ousmane Dembele out of his 22-man squad for Saturday’s Champions League clash against Napoli at the Camp Nou.
The French forward is closing in on a return to full fitness after a lengthy spell out recovering from a torn hamstring but will not be risked against the Serie A side.
Setien told a pre-match press conference that he seriously considered including Dembele in his squad but decided it would be too risky.
“We thought about including him but unfortunately the training sessions that’s he been with the group have been few and the reality is that we don’t want to assume a massive risk.
“So I don’t know if at some moment we will be able to count on him but he still needs to gain confidence as well. I think that the best decision is not to include him.
“We thought maybe he could play a few minutes but we will see next week how he evolves, after more practice with the team, how his development is and if maybe then he can participate more.”
The tie is poised at 1-1 after the first leg in Italy, with the winners set to progress to a quarter-final against either Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich or Premier League club Chelsea.
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Dembele to Feature if Barcelona Progress?
Dembele has not played for Barcelona since November’s win over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. His season looked to be over when he underwent hamstring surgery in February, but it’s possible he could feature if Barcelona go deep into the tournament.
The Catalan giants have been happy to show off the 23-year-old in training with the team this week as they prepare for the visit of Gennaro Gattuso’s side.
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Setien’s comments suggest that Dembele has an outside chance of featuring if Barcelona make it past Napoli. The team will then progress to the ‘final eight’ tournament which will be played in Portugal.
Setien Not Thinking About His Future
The Barcelona boss has come under pressure ahead of Saturday’s tie after seeing Real Madrid pip his team to the league title in Spain. Yet Setien also insisted he was not thinking about his future and believes his team are refreshed and ready for the challenge of Napoli.
“It has not crossed my mind at any time that tomorrow is my last game. We have prepared for the game thinking that we are going to continue,
“When we finished the league, it was with a positive mindset. Both the players and myself needed a break because after so many consecutive matches it really took its toll on us.
“But I think now we have had sufficient time to prepare for this match; to recuperate physically, take a few days off and come back with a renewed energy that has allowed us to have some very good training sessions and prepare in the best way possible.”
Barcelona head into the game as favorites to progress but Setien will know his position will come under intense scrutiny if his team suffers another painful Champions League exit.