Barca may need youth to get past Napoli, reach CL final 8

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Barcelona's head coach Quique Setien gestures after the Spanish La Liga soccer match between RC Celta and Barcelona at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain, Saturday, June 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Lalo Villar)

BARCELONA – Barcelona coach Quique Setién says that he is ready to count on youngsters Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig to eliminate Napoli and advance to the Champions League final eight in Portugal.

Barcelona will be without midfielders Sergio Busquets, Arturo Vidal and Arthur for Saturday’s second leg of their round-of-16 tie. The match will be played five months after the Spanish side earned a 1-1 draw at Napoli before the pandemic brought most sports to a halt.

“Both Rique and Ansu are ready to play,” Setién said Friday. “They have performed and played pretty well and could perfectly well start (against Napoli). And if they do start, I am sure they will be guaranteed to play well.”

The 20-year-old Puig has a good chance to earn his debut in Europe’s top-tier club competition with both Busquets and Vidal suspended for the critical match. Arthur has had a falling out with the club after securing his transfer to Juventus for next season and refusing to return to team practice.

Setién values Puig’s passing and ball-control skills, which remind some Barcelona fans of Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, and rewarded him with a bigger role during the final stretch of the Spanish league.

Fati, 17, made a huge splash this season by becoming the youngest player to score in the Spanish league and the Champions League, among other precocious scoring milestones.

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez set to start in attack, Fati could get picked over fellow forward Antoine Griezmann, who was cleared to play by team doctors on Friday after having recovered from a right thigh injury last month.

Clement Lenglet was also cleared by team doctors and will likely play with Gerard Pique in the center of the defense with Samuel Umtiti still injured.