Barcelona manager Quique Setien played down fears over captain Lionel Messi’s fitness after Saturday’s 3-1 win over Napoli in the last-16 of the Champions League.
The Argentina international required treatment at the end of the first half following a challenge from Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly that resulted in a penalty for the Catalan giants.
Messi was able to continue and played the whole 90 minutes at the Camp Nou, but Setien spoke to reporters about the incident after the match.
“Lionel took quite a fierce knock in that challenge [against Koulibaly] but I don’t think it’ll become a big problem for him.
“This is a first step well taken. The first few minutes Napoli had us working hard. They are a great team. We had to defend with lots of intensity and commitment. If they’d scored again it would have been a big boost for Napoli so our big priority was to defend well. That said, there were some nerves.
“This was the first forward step we wanted and now it’s to be hoped we play the matches in front of us with the same attitude which we demonstrated here. The team played well and we deserved this.”
“All the rivals who are left are strong and there are only complicated matches left. So it’ll be tough for us but for Bayern too. They’re a great side but so are we.”
Messi was on target for Barcelona against Napoli, along with center-back Clement Lenglet and striker Luis Suarez. The win means the Catalan giants go on to face Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals in Lisbon on Friday.
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Messi Vital to Barcelona’s Hopes
Barcelona will need Messi fit and on his best form if they are to lift the Champions League this season. Setien’s side “aren’t the best team in the Champions League but they have the best player” in Messi, according to ESPN’s Sam Marsden.
The 33-year-old’s brilliant goal against Napoli highlighted once again his genius and also means he has now scored against 35 different teams in Europe’s top competition, more than any other player in the history of the tournament.
Lionel Messi extends his record for most UCL opponents scored against. pic.twitter.com/3d1OfaFtDh
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 8, 2020
Bayern Munich will provide Barcelona with a tough test and the match-up will evoke memories of some recent epic fixtures between the two sides. The German team famously thrashed Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the Champions League in 2013, although the Catalan gained revenge two years later with a 5-3 win in the semi-finals.
Messi famously destroyed defender Jerome Boateng in the first leg of that tie, scoring twice in the 3-0 win at the Camp Nou, and could come up against 31-year-old again on Friday.