Pique admits facing Crouch in semi-final would be a tall order
Saturday 19 March 2011
Barcelona might have to visit London twice if they are to lift the European Cup for the fourth time in the club's history. Should Barça beat Shakhtar Donetsk and Tottenham get past Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, then Peter Crouch could become Gerard Pique's problem in the semi-finals.
"I have never played against him but I imagine it is very difficult," he says. "It is practically impossible to compete with him in the air. It is almost a case of letting him win the ball in the air and then making sure that you get the second ball when it drops. But they have other very good players – Gareth Bale and Rafa van der Vaart are both outstanding. Tottenham are a bit like Arsenal. They like to have the ball and play football and that normally suits us – it will be another great spectacle."
The draw denied Pique a return to Old Trafford but White Hart Lane has plenty of the Premier League atmosphere he still rates as the best in the world. "I always like playing in England for the passion that you have for the game and the way you enjoy watching football. In the big games at the Nou Camp the atmosphere is always incredible and people really get behind the team, but in England it is a constant in every single game.
"Every ground is full and the people are part of the spectacle and not just watching it. I'm a massive fan of English-style football, too, because of how direct it is and how many chances on goal there are."
With Eric Abidal out until the end of the season after a successful operation to remove a tumour from his liver, and Carles Puyol with no return date from a tendinitis problem on his left knee, Pique is more important to Barça than he has been ever before.
"You feel completely helpless in the stands," he says recalling how he sat out the second leg against Arsenal because of suspension. "I could hardly watch when [Nicklas] Bendtner went through at the end and [Javier] Mascherano made that tackle."
If there is to be a meeting against his former club Manchester United or Chelsea then it will have to come in the final. He was a watching reserve in the stands the night those two contested the 2008 final in Moscow and John Terry's slip helped give United victory.
"They want to win the Champions League, very badly," he says of Chelsea. "They were one penalty kick away. It was heart-attack stuff at the end. The two teams knew each other so well at that point of the season and in the end it all came down to a penalty. It was as if a coin was flipped and we called heads and it came down heads."
A final against Chelsea would also mean Pique facing his Spain international team-mate Fernando Torres. His signing can only improve Carlo Ancelotti's side's chances of reaching the Wembley final. "Torres takes Chelsea on to another level," he says. "They already have Drogba but he gives them more variation in the way they can break teams down.
"He scored so many goals for Liverpool and I'm sure he is going to do exactly the same for Chelsea. When you are going well and you get injured it's not easy to get started again and then to reach the same level. But he is one of those players who is so good that, like [Cesc] Fabregas, they will get back to that level."
Pique knows something about the struggle to land a first European Cup. He was five when Barcelona won theirs under the twin towers of Wembley in 1992 against Sampdoria. "I watched it at home and I remember how happy the people were. For a club like Barcelona it was an enormous step. The first European Cup that you win is always the hardest."
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