Barca stay in the hunt

SE­TIEN: MAN­AGER RE­TURNS TO HIS OLD STAMP­ING GROUND AT REAL BETIS

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Barcelona

Barcelona visit Real Betis in La Liga to­mor­row as coach Quique Se­tien re­turns to the club which cat­a­pulted him to fame only to cut him loose af­ter a bit­ter fall­out.

Se­tien was seen as a sur­prise choice to suc­ceed Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona last month and was also an un­ex­pected hire when he took over Betis in the sum­mer of 2017, go­ing on to have a suc­cess­ful yet di­vi­sive two-year reign at the Seville club.

He achieved the high­est win per­cent­age of any Betis coach in the top-flight and over­saw some spec­tac­u­lar dis­plays, in­clud­ing stun­ning away vic­to­ries at Barca, ri­vals Sevilla, AC Mi­lan plus suc­ces­sive wins at Real Madrid for the first time since 1934.

Yet his undy­ing devo­tion to pos­ses­sion foot­ball be­gan to alien­ate fans in the lat­ter half of his sec­ond sea­son as re­sults dried up and Betis were thrashed by Le­ganes and Le­vante.

At the team’s low­est ebb, the club’s most vocal sup­port­ers re­fused to en­ter the sta­dium for a game against Es­panyol, protest­ing out­side with a ban­ner read­ing ‘Se­tien, take your ego out of our club’.

De­spite beat­ing Real Madrid on the last day of the sea­son, Se­tien was sacked by Betis with a year left on his con­tract.

The 61-year-old spent over seven months out of work and was walk­ing among cows in a vil­lage when he got the call from Barcelona.

His short time with the cham­pi­ons, how­ever, has been far from smooth. Barca have fallen three points be­hind Real Madrid in the ti­tle race af­ter a de­feat to Va­len­cia and cap­tain Lionel Messi ap­pears to be at log­ger­heads with sporting di­rec­tor Eric Abidal.

The coach is also short on per­son­nel, with for­wards Luis Suarez

and Ous­mane Dem­bele ruled out for the rest of the sea­son and in­flu­en­tial de­fender Ger­ard Pique suspended for to­mor­row’s game against Betis, who are 12th in the stand­ings.

Se­tien, how­ever, says he has no re­grets. “When you ar­rive at a club like this you ex­pect things to hap­pen and for them to be am­pli­fied,” he told re­porters.

“I’m con­vinced we can keep mov­ing for­ward on the pitch.”

Else­where in La Liga, lead­ers Real Madrid visit Osasuna, who have only lost two home league games since April 2018 and Atletico will be seek­ing a re­ac­tion to last week’s derby de­feat when they host Granada. –

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

QUIQUE SE­TIEN

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