BARCELONA: Barcelona visit Real Betis in La Liga on Sunday 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 Sunday'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 on Wednesday.
"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, while Atletico Madrid will be seeking a reaction to last week's derby defeat to Real when they host Granada.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)