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12.03.2010 10:39

Piqué: “I have no doubts in this team”

Sandra Sarmiento

Gerard Piqué is confident that FC Barcelona have the strength and character to challenge for both the title and the Champions League this season as they enter the run-in.

The Catalan central defender told Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat that the Blaugrana can learn from Real Madrid’s European stumble in midweek and show that they can add to their trophy haul.

Did Real Madrid’s Champions League exit surprise you?
“The truth is that it did. I did not think they would go out this early. But we know how the Champions League can be. It is something for us to take heed from just before we play our game next week.”

It appears that you have to respect every team.
“Now we are in a phase when all the teams are very good and if you do not give 100 per cent or do not respect the opposition then what happened to Madrid can happen.”

It is good news for Barça fans, but for the team?
“For us it makes no difference. The best thing is not to focus on that. It is true that Madrid will now only have the league to go for and they will drop very few points as a result. Things will be difficult.”

Are you pleased to see Manchester United go through and that Wayne Rooney is thriving?
2010-02-20_PARTIDO_12.JPG“He has scored a lot of goals. Wayne has never been a player that is recognized for scoring a lot of goals but I think that Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit has meant that he has assumed a lot of responsibility in the team.”

Are Barça still favourites to win the league?
“The reigning champions are always seen a favourites. We are the favourites and we accept that. It is true that Madrid strengthened well and that they only have the league to focus on now. They will be difficult opponents but I am confident that we will regain the title.”

Barça have shown that they can overcome adversity well.
“This team has so much character. We have always shown that. Last year we showed it at Chelsea, against Mallorca and when the team appears to be in a complicated situation we always find a way to come through it. We have always come out on top. I hope that we can maintain this attitude and this character that saw us become champions of so many competitions.”

Dani Alves certainly has character. He said recently that if he does not play with total intensity he becomes anxious.
“Having ability is not everything as you also have to be tactically aware. If you do not give 100 per cent and do not give everything all the time and do not show you want the ball and to win the game then things will not go how you want.”

What is the team missing?
2010-02-27_PARTIDO_34.JPG“I believe that other teams are learning about us all the time and they close up tightly, but we know how to break through on the counter and do hurt them and we are growing all the time too. In the last few games we have suffered slightly but that is because I am comparing to last season. We may have lowered our guard slightly. You cannot be at your best throughout an entire season. The team will always see a slight drop every now and then and we have to bounce back to our best quickly.”

Having said that the team has more points this season than last. Is the difference that Madrid are better?
“That has made the fans a bit more restless. The Barça supporters see that we are level on points with Madrid now when last season we were four or five points ahead of them. That has meant we have to recharge and we cannot lose any more points in the league.”

Could the game against Valencia on Sunday be crucial to the league title?
“Now every game means a lot. There are less games left every week and to lose points would hurt us in the run-in.”

Is there a 15-point difference between Barça and Valencia in real terms?
“If the league signifies anything then it is consistency. When there is a 15-point gap it is because someone has been inconsistent and in this case it is Valencia. But in any one game anything can happen and Valencia are a great side.”

Valencia will give everything on Sunday? With Silva, Mata and Villa they could really hurt Barça.
“All their players have great ability. Defensively they work very hard and that will make it difficult to win.”

David Navarro and Carlos Marchena will not play
“That is good for us. They are two important players and they would have both started. But then have other good defenders like Alexis and Dealbert, who I am sure will play well.”

The supporters can also help with the players needing to not have any extra pressure, no?
“The fans have always helped us at key times, like in the game against Inter when it was spectacular. On the big occasions the fans always respond and I am sure that on Sunday it will be another day like that.”

This Barça side can have no self doubts?
fcb-valencia_x26x.JPG“After what we did last season I have no doubts. We want to win everything and the team is very ambitious. We want to win it all again. When you have experienced the joy that comes with winning trophies you want more. We have shown that when things are difficult we have character and I have no doubts about this side. We are in the two biggest competitions and we want to win them.”

The referees have been the centre of attention in recent months. Are we treading on dangerous ground?
“I think so, yes. We are losing the charm of football. The referees are not all-important. What is more important is the players and the fans. The referee is a bit-part actor who, in theory, should not have a main role. I would like to see this talked about less because football should retain its charm.”

Messi is holding up the team when things are not going well?
“Messi is very important as everyone knows. We know that when he is playing well it is much easier to score goals and to win games. Leo has to take on a lot at the moment and I think that it is good for the team. He is the best player in the world.”

“Is he aiming to be the top scorer in the league and Europe?
“Everyone knows he would like the Golden Boot. But is it is not something that he has to do. If in the end he manages that then great. He is not a natural goalscorer, but this year he has scored a lot and I hope he can continue doing so.”

Alves said the other day that the team have to help players when they are not at their best, like Henry and Ibrahimovic. How can they be helped?
“We can given them confidence. When things do not go right then the team has to lift each other. They are important to the side and this we have great confidence in them both.”

Do they know how important they are to helping the team win trophies?
“I am sure that we will see them back to their best soon. They know the team needs them. It is one thing to want to do something and another to be able. I think things will change before the end of the season and that we will all be at our best.”

Gaby Milito is not the captain but is he a leader off the pitch?
“He has all the qualities to be a captain because he was at Zaragoza when I was there. He talks a lot to the players and shouts when he sees things are not going well. It is a good thing to have in the dressing room.”

His comeback was inspirational.
“I hope that I never suffer the same thing that he did because I am not sure I could return. When Gaby deserves credit.”
Piqué: “I have no doubts in this team”

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Personal questions
You did not start the season at the same level as you played last season but you are back.
“There was a month or two when I was not at my best. Maybe it was the strain of so many games or that there were other factors away from football. I did not feel the same, but now I can say that for the last there or four games I felt I am back to my best and I hope to finish the season like last term.”

Is it difficult to take in everything that has happened since you came back to Barça?
“If everything around you is normal then it is easy to do. I am simply enjoying everything that is happening. I am working hard and not thinking too much about that and about everything that has happened. If I did I might go mad.”

Pep Guardiola has said that there is not a single central defender of the same age playing as well as you. What do you think of that?
“That the coach, who was such a great player himself and could read the game so well, is superb. I have a great relationship with Pep and I am very grateful to him. I appreciate what says and it inspires me to want to work even harder.”

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