Barcelona's new coach Quique Setien (c) will take charge of the La Liga leaders for the first time on Sunday as they host Granada at Camp Nou. Photo: Alejandro Garcia/EPA
Barcelona's new coach Quique Setien (c) will take charge of the La Liga leaders for the first time on Sunday as they host Granada at Camp Nou. Photo: Alejandro Garcia/EPA

Setien ready for Barca bow as Liga leaders host Granada

Time of article published Jan 16, 2020

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BARCELONA - Barcelona's new coach Quique Setien will take charge of the La Liga leaders for the first time on Sunday as they host Granada at Camp Nou.

Having been presented on Tuesday as Ernesto Valverde's replacement, the veteran Spanish coach is in the strange position of starting with the team currently top of the table.

Barcelona lead the division on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid, with both teams on 40 points after 19 games, the halfway mark.

"I have spoken with (Valverde) to discuss things because there are many things from his work that will be useful to me," said Setien.

"I thank him that he leaves me this team in first place in the league."

Barcelona's board brought Setien in to help improve the quality of the team's performances.

While Valverde won two league titles in his two full seasons at the club, there have long been concerns over the style of play and bloodless displays.

"Whenever a new coach arrives, there is a new sense of stimulation," added Setien.

"It's true that this can sometimes fade away afterwards, but we have to try to maintain it.

"I'm convinced that I can convey the ideas I like and that everything can get better. The main objective is without doubt to win all we can.

"This club requires that you get better each year and that you win as many titles as possible, as well as playing well."

Promoted Granada, after a fine start to the season in which they topped the table after 10 games, have faded a little and sit 10th.

Real Madrid have the chance to go provisionally three points clear of Barcelona on Saturday when they host Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The visitors are set to stand in a guard of honour for Madrid after they triumphed in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia last week.

Having improved greatly under Zinedine Zidane this season, Los Blancos now seem close to the level they played at in their double winning season, 2016-17.

Midfielder Fede Valverde is suspended for the game after being sent off in the Spanish Super Cup final for cynically fouling Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata as he ran through on goal at the end of extra-time.

"We had some difficulties at the start of the season, but that can happen," said Zidane.

"Now we have to be happy with this cup, but it's a long season. There are lots of competitions still up for grabs and we're only just getting started."

Forwards Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard are not expected to return from injury for the clash, having missed the Super Cup competition in Jeddah but returned to training this week.

Sevilla, fourth, are impressing under Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked by Real Madrid last season.

The Spanish coach was given little time at the helm, dismissed in October 2018 after a 5-1 thrashing by Barcelona, having taken over from Zidane in the summer.

The weekend's other fixtures are Leganes v Getafe, Levante v Alaves, Osasuna v Valladolid, Eibar v Atletico Madrid, Real Mallorca v Valencia, Real Betis v Real Sociedad, Villarreal v Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao v Celta Vigo.

dpa

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