Messi situation, Barcelona dressing room not a distraction - Setien

Quique Setien has said a strong dressing room has not prevented him from doing his job at Barcelona despite seeing his side's title bid come off the rails in recent weeks.

Barca have drawn three of their last four games, falling four points behind Real Madrid at the top of the table. When La Liga restarted in June, they held a two-point advantage.

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Sources told ESPN after last weekend's draw at Celta Vigo that Setien had lost the confidence of his players, with images from that game showing captain Lionel Messi ignoring instructions from assistant coach Eder Sarabia.

Then, following the midweek draw against Atletico Madrid, Antoine Griezmann's dad called Setien a "passenger" after his son was benched in another sign of player unrest.

"Every club has its hierarchies," the coach said in a news conference ahead of Sunday's trip to Villarreal. "These are things that [players] earn with extraordinary performances over a sustained period of time.

"It has not impeded me at all. It has helped me make decisions and have things clear. I am not a coach that tries to impose himself. For me, it's about trying to convince the players [of my ideas] by discussing them with them."

Griezmann has now been a substitute in Barca's last two games and only came on in second half stoppage-time against former side Atletico.

"I have spoken with him," Setien said. "Antoine is a great professional and he understands the situation. It won't affect him when he plays again. He's very positive and we can count on him 100 percent when he's back out on the pitch.

"I have the hierarchy and the importance of certain players in mind but not everyone can play. They're decisions that I must take responsibility for."

Setien, though, refused to be drawn on a report from Cadena Ser this week that suggested Messi could leave the club in 2021 when his contract expires.

The Barca boss said he wouldn't comment on "speculation" that the Argentine is annoyed at being made responsible for a number of decisions at the club, including January's dismissal of Ernesto Valverde.

Setien's own future has been cast into doubt as a six-point swing has seen Barca hand top spot to Real Madrid. If they fail to beat Villarreal this weekend, they could end up seven points behind Zinedine Zidane's side, who face Athletic Bilbao earlier in the day.

"I don't spend a minute thinking about that," Setien said when asked if more dropped points would condemn him to the sack. "This is the circus we're involved in and we accept it, but I focus on what I have to focus on, which is football."

When pressed on if, in a meeting last Monday, the board had told him he won't be in charge next season, he added: "I have said I won't reveal the conversations we had that day, but I didn't sense that, not at all."