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Gerard Pique is certain that Barcelona will bounce back in Atletico Madrid Champions League clash

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Published 05/04/2016

No fear: Gerard Pique isn’t scared by Atletico Madrid
No fear: Gerard Pique isn’t scared by Atletico Madrid

No team has retained the European Cup since 1990, but no reigning champion has had a better chance than Barcelona this season. They are the best team in the world, powered by the three best forwards.

Everything is in place for them to do what they could not after triumphs in 2009 and 2011, and yet on Saturday evening, in El Clasico at home against Real Madrid, they looked sluggish, vulnerable and were well beaten.

So, as they prepare to host Atletico Madrid tonight in their quarter-final first leg, the question is whether Saturday was a blip or an omen for Luis Enrique's side.

"This game is forgotten already," the Barça coach said on Saturday, hoping to move on quickly.

Of course, the 2-1 defeat stands out because it was so unexpected. It ended a 39-game unbeaten run stretching back to a 2-1 loss at Sevilla six months before. No team is perfect and Barcelona were up against talented opposition desperate to make up for the last few years of humiliations.

Yet defeat prompted worries about whether Barça can repeat in 2016 what they did in 2015.

They looked tired and complacent, a problem that often afflicts teams who have won so much, though Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez had endured long trips back from international duty in South America.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique agrees with his boss, saying they do not need to use the defeat as a wake-up call - a match he expects to be even tougher than the Clasico.

The Spain international, who headed Barca into a 56th-minute lead against Real, admitted: "We don't need a wake-up call because we already know how difficult and complicated it is to win every game.

"Emotionally it's a defeat like any other. We went 39 games without losing and at times it happens. Onwards.

"We're ready to play another game on Tuesday and to do very well. Tomorrow is a unique opportunity to have a great game and leave the bar very high."

Atletico are the great disrupters of European football. They may have taken just two points from their last 12 La Liga games against Barca, but Atletico knocked Enrique's side out at this stage of this competition two years ago after a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp. Atletico won La Liga that year, but lost the Champions League final to Real in extra time.

Pique adds: "We're not scared, but they are having a great season. It's going to be more difficult than Saturday."

Barcelona will need to sharpen up to hold on to their crown.

Belfast Telegraph

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