BARCELONA

Barcelona are not distracted by off-field issues, says Setién

Barcelona have tripped from one controversy to the next in recent weeks, but Quique Setién and the players are focused on results.

Barcelona are not distracted by off-field issues, says Setién

Barcelona head coach Quique Setién does not expect his side's focus to waver over a key run of games despite a series of off-field controversies.

Barça face Eibar on Saturday before visiting Napoli in their Champions League last-16 first leg in midweek and then taking on LaLiga title rivals Real Madrid in El Clásico on 1 March.

The forthcoming schedule represents a make-or-break stretch in the season for Setién's men, who are a point behind Madrid in the table.

Off-field problems haven't affected us, insists Setién

Yet a number of incidents away from the pitch have overshadowed the early weeks of Setién's tenure.

Sporting director Éric Abidal suggested the players had not been working for previous coach Ernesto Valverde prior to his January dismissal, prompting a strong response from captain Lionel Messi.

Barça then denied allegations made by Spanish radio network Cadena SER this week that they hired a company to damage the image of key figures associated with the club, including Messi, by spreading negative messages on social media platforms.

But Setién is not distracted said ahead of the Eibar game: "You'd think it might affect us, but the reality is it's not like that.

"We're very focused on what we need to focus on. We're focused on football matters, we have a lot to focus on. We know what goes on, but I can assure you it doesn't influence anything.

"We're focused on our objective, which is to win games, play well and allow the fans to enjoy themselves. Anything other than that really doesn't affect us."

"Everything the president says is accepted"

And Setién confirmed president Josep María Bartomeu had discussed the latest issue with senior players.

"Everything the president says is accepted. He told us exactly the same as what he said everywhere," he said. "I'm not thinking about that anymore."

Setién was reluctant to discuss the clash with Napoli but was asked about Messi's suggestion in a wide-ranging Mundo Deportivo interview that Barça were not ready to compete for the Champions League this season.

"There are things that I agree with and things that I'm not in agreement with," Setién said. "In the past 20 years, we have won a lot of Champions Leagues.

"We've got the same chance of winning as other teams have. There's no room for error. There are things we need to try to improve and that we need to do well. That's clear.

"We're not happy with everything, but I think we're growing gradually and reaching a level that will allow us to compete, definitely, with every team."

Setién hopeful Barcelona new boy Braithwaite "can help us a lot"

Barça controversially signed Martin Braithwaite from Leganés this week, following long-term injuries to Luis Suárez and Ousmane Dembélé, and the new man has gone straight into the squad for the Eibar game.

"He's come here with a lot of excitement and a lot of desire," Setién said of Braithwaite. "We hope that he can help us a lot."

Also in with the chance of a first-team debut is Barcelona B left-back Sergio Akieme, who joined the club from Rayo Vallecano in September.

The 22-year-old has been called up to provide cover for Junior Firpo after Jordi Alba injured his right adductor last weekend, potentially making the Spain international a doubt to face Madrid.