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Barcelona: Players row with Setien

Barcelona manager Quique Setien’s relationship with his players is already showing signs of straining, with various sources having told ESPN they didn’t click from day one.

Barca led La Liga in January when Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde, who was sacked after the Spanish Supercopa defeat to Atletico Madrid in Saudi Arabia. However, Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo, coupled with Real Madrid’s win at Espanyol on Sunday, saw them fall two points behind Zinedine Zidane’s side at the top of the table with just six games to be played.

Setien signed a contract with Barca until 2022 — with a get-out clause in 2021 if the newly elected president does not want him to continue — but results and performances have quickly seen him lose credit with the players and the board of directors.

Luis Suarez appeared to deflect the blame on to Setien in Vigo on Saturday. Asked to explain Barca’s poor away form, he told the reporter the players were giving everything on the pitch and that “managers are there for a reason.”

On Monday, Setien tried to play down Suarez’s comments in his news conference ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Atletico Madrid. He said: “These little controversies will always exist. Everyone has their own way of seeing things. It’s normal.

“I wasn’t an easy player, either. We have to convince the players that the common idea is what’s important. The communication between us is good and I don’t give it any importance.

“When you don’t win, because of isolated play at a certain moment, like the foul for Celta’s equaliser, everyone sharpens the knives. This is the circus we’re involved in. But the relationship we have with the players is good. It’s true there are sometimes disagreements, but I don’t see any problems worthy of talking about.”

Meanwhile, images over the weekend emerged of Lionel Messi giving Setien’s assistant, Eder Sarabia, the cold shoulder in the second half at Balaidos. During the drinks break, Sarabia twice tried to relay information to Messi, but the Argentina captain walked away from him on both occasions.

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