Piqué urges fans to back Barcelona
Catalan maestros face uphill struggle against Milan
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique admits the team have it all to do against AC Milan, but is convinced the Catalan maestros can triumph. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters
Gerard Piqué has called on Barcelona fans to have faith in their team or hand in their membership cards, if only for one night.
The central defender, grandson of a former director and a member of the club since birth, took a step forward with a message that he wanted to deliver and others wanted to hear – as much motivational speech as media appearance.
This appeared to be a directive delivered to the squad as well as the supporters ahead of tonight’s home Champions League tie against Milan. Barça trail 2-0 from the first leg with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
None of the results Barcelona have achieved at home in this year’s Champions League would be enough to see them through, but Piqué insisted there are sufficient reasons to be optimistic. “If anyone doesn’t think we can win, they should give their membership card to a friend who will come and support us,” he said.
“I was looking at the league table earlier and we’ve scored more goals than anyone else, something like 20 more than the team in second place. If there is one thing that this team does not lack it is goals. We know it is Milan that stand before us, a great side . . . but I am convinced that we will have chances. If the fans do not believe in us, I would say to them: look at the last four or five years, or even the last 20 or so.
“For 90 years this was a club that never won anything, then Johan Cruyff arrived [in 1988] and changed our history. Then [Franck] Rijkaard, then [Pep] Guardiola and Tito [Vilanova]. You have to have faith in this team.”
If there seemed to be a spark of indignation, something vindicatory about Piqué’s words, he denied that.
Brilliant and magnificant[/CROSSHEAD]
Asked if he felt like Barcelona had to get through in order to silence the critics, he replied: “No, not at all. We’re top of the table, 13 points ahead of the team in second and we now could go through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It’s hard? Yes, it’s hard, but we can.
“The season has been brilliant, magnificent. We got knocked out by Real Madrid in the Cup, sure. That can happen. But now we want to try to get through against Milan: not to shut people’s mouths but because we’re ambitious and I am convinced that we can. The pitch will be perfect, the grass short and wet, we’re in front of our fans. There are no excuses.”
The question is how Barcelona approach the game, given the likelihood of Milan playing deep and trying to deny them space, much as they did in the first leg. “We have played against teams that have done that for five years,” said Piqué, “and we know how to overcome teams like that, but . . . few do it as well as Milan.
“We will have to open the pitch out as much as we can. It’s a big pitch and . . . We have to pressure high up the pitch and hopefully we can get an early goal – but you never know.”
So far, so good. But one end of the pitch has been largely forgotten as supporters and media build up to this tie. All the talk of Barcelona's attack could be rendered meaningless by an away goal. If Milan score, Barcelona's task becomes gigantic. They would need at least four goals. Cesc Fábregas has demanded that the side play more with their heads than their hearts. Piqué agreed. “That is the way we have always played . . . [but] you can think you’re playing well and Milan arrive and get a goal . . . but there’s always a chance to score.
“In our stadium, Manchester United won a European Cup when they were losing in the 92nd minute. We will fight until the 94th minute to win and we can score four if we have to."