Setien: Barca ‘can still win Champions League’

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action with Osasuna’s Pervis Estupinan as play resumes behind closed doors following the COVID-19 outbreak. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 July 2020

Setien: Barca ‘can still win Champions League’

  • Coach says he doesn’t feel undermined by Lionel Messi’s damning review of Barcelona’s season

MADRID: Quique Setien said on Saturday he does not feel undermined by Lionel Messi’s damning review of Barcelona’s season and insists they can still win the Champions League.

Barca surrendered the La Liga title to Real Madrid on Thursday by losing at home to Osasuna and after the match, Messi vented his frustration, saying the team has been “weak,” “inconsistent” and “lacking in desire.”

Messi added that unless there was “a lot of change” the team would lose to Napoli as well next month in the Champions League, comments some have taken as a shot at his coach.

But Setien maintains he has no problem with Messi’s assessment.

“Not at all, I think in certain moments we all say things that can be taken badly,” said Setien, ahead of Barcelona’s final league game of the season on Sunday away at Alaves.

“I don’t give it much importance. The feeling I get is we are absolutely aware that we have a very important competition to come and we want to reach the final and win it.”

Barca face a second leg at home against Napoli in the last 16, with the tie in the balance after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.

The winner will play Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, assuming they finish the job against Chelsea.

“We have to improve in some areas but you can’t convince me everything has been a disaster, it hasn’t,” said Setien.

“We have to be more consistent, more reliable. If we manage to have a game like the one we played against Villarreal, where everything went well, it will undoubtedly give us a chance to win the Champions League.”

Setien said he and the players held a meeting on Friday and admitted there had been disagreements.

“There are things on which we agree and other things that we don’t, that’s normal,” he said.

“Everyone’s concern is to improve the team. We are trying to find solutions so things change and that is what the meeting was all about, preparing for the future with optimism.”

But Setien’s position is already unstable, with failure in the Champions League likely to prompt another change after Ernesto Valverde was sacked in January.

Barcelona could finish the season without a trophy for the first time in 12 years.

Asked if he had thought about resigning, Setien said: “I always knew things were not going to be easy. At no time have I had the feeling of really wanting to leave.”

Setien has named only 16 players in the squad for the game against Alaves, including three goalkeepers, meaning he can only make three outfield substitutions.

Arthur Melo, who has agreed to join Juventus next season, is unavailable after he reported an ankle injury.


Bucks’ Antetokounmpo named NBA MVP for second straight year

Updated 39 min 40 sec ago

Bucks’ Antetokounmpo named NBA MVP for second straight year

  • The 25-year-old became just the third player in history to earn MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season, after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994
  • The MVP award carries a bittersweet tinge after the top-seeded Bucks fell in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals

LOS ANGELES: Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said Friday he’ll treasure his second straight NBA Most Valuable Player award and redouble his efforts to capture a league crown.
The 25-year-old from Greece became just the third player in history to earn MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season, after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994.
“Michael Jordan, one of the best players who’s ever done it, if not the best,” Antetokounmpo said, speaking from a rooftop in Athens during the televised announcement of the award. “Hakeem, a guy that I look up to, he came from where I’m from, Nigeria, where I have roots.
“Just being in the same sentence with them, that means a lot to me.”
The player dubbed the “Greek Freak” became the 12th player to win back-to-back MVPs, joining Jordan, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
But, once again, the MVP award carries a bittersweet tinge after the top-seeded Bucks fell in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals in the quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Last year, Antetokounmpo won the MVP only for eventual champion Toronto to oust the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.
“Obviously I would love to be still in the bubble playing games, fighting,” Antetokounmpo said. “But at the end of the day I won the award. I’m extremely blessed.
“It’s been a long journey,” Antetokounmpo added. “The people that know me, the people that know my story, you can never take these moments for granted.”
Antetokounmpo won in a landslide, receiving 85 first-place votes from a global panel of sports reporters and broadcasters, the league announced on Friday.
Los Angeles Lakers star James received 16 first-place votes and the third finalist, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, did not receive any first-place votes.
The voting was based on performance from the start of the season through March 11, when play was shut down in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
It did not included the “seeding games” played when teams in contention for playoff spots once play resumed in Orlando.
Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists in leading the Bucks to the best regular-season record in the pandemic-disrupted season.
But he had to watch from the sidelines as the Heat won game five of their semifinal series, nursing a sprained ankle suffered in game three and aggravated in game four.
“Obviously, I am disappointed to not be able to help our team go to the third round,” he said. “That feeling cannot take away from this award.
“I’m happy for this award, but I want more,” he said. “I want to be a champion.”
As a veteran entering his eighth season, Antetokounmpo will be eligible to receive a supermax contract extension from the Bucks.
The Bucks reportedly plan to extend that offer as soon as they can — after the 2019-20 season officially ends.
There has been widespread speculation as to whether a player of Antetokounmpo’s stature will be happy to remain in the small market of Milwaukee.
He met with Bucks owners including Marc Lasry before heading to Greece and has indicated he’d be open to staying.
Providing he’s convinced the team is determined to invest the resources to pursue a title, Antetokounmpo said Friday, “I don’t see why not to be in Milwaukee for the next 15 years.”