Piqué: "Barcelona can still win LaLiga and Champions League"
Gerard Piqué and club president Josep Maria Bartomeu say Barcelona are on the right track, despite a Copa del Rey defeat to Athletic Club.
Gerard Piqué insists that the Barcelona squad is united despite being eliminated from the Copa del Rey by Athletic Club at the end of what has been a fraught week for the club. A 1-0 defeat to Athletic saw Barcelona knocked out of the Copa in the quarter-finals on Thursday, with that familiar route to silverware now cut off to the 30-time winners.
Tense week at Barcelona
The setback followed criticism from director of football Éric Abidal, who questioned the team's effort under former head coach Ernesto Valverde, which led to a rebuke from star man and captain Lionel Messi.
"It's not time to air the dirty washing. The dressing room is fully united," Piqué told reporters after the Athletic game. "Elimination is a big blow but we said in the dressing room that we've taken a step forward and played well, despite all the noise that's been generated. We have to focus on playing and winning. We have to return to winning ways. The players have the ability to keep winning and we are working on that every day, finding a better feel for the game."
Barcelona left in two competitions
With LaLiga and the Champions League still in their sights, Piqué said of Barcelona, who are three points behind Real Madrid: "There is enough confidence and talent to be able to win the two remaining titles." Piqué hobbled off in the second half in Bilbao with what initially appeared to be a groin injury, but he said the blow was to his adductor and "not serious".
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said Barcelona looked to be on the right track, after a match they could easily have won. Messi and Antoine Griezmann missed clear chances before Iñaki Williams headed the winner deep in second-half stoppage time.
"The first thing is to congratulate Athletic, who will be in the semi-finals, but I also thank the Barça fans who have come and I also congratulate the Barca players because they fought, dominated and played well. [Athletic] have only had one chance and they scored," Bartomeu told Barça TV. "The ambition and the attitude that I saw on the pitch encourages me with a view to LaLiga and the Champions League, so successes can come. I repeat that we had clear occasions, such as those of Griezmann and Messi, and we dominated. Now we focus on LaLiga and the Champions League, but I want to emphasise the ambition, the attitude and the work done. We deserved to go through."
Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets said, according to AS: "It is a sad day for everyone. We have two competitions that we have to keep fighting in. This does not stop, we have to continue, we have done things well and we have had the game quite under control. In an isolated play at the end we are out of the Copa."