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Gerard Piqué insists that, despite back-to-back defeats, talk of FC Barcelona being at the "end of an era" is premature and hopes to prove as much in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Chelsea FC.
Following Barcelona's loss to Real Madrid CF on Saturday night there have been suggestions that Josep Guardiola's side are not the force they once were. Madrid's 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou moved the capital club seven points clear of their fierce rivals at the top of the Liga and with Barcelona also trailing Chelsea 1-0 in their UEFA Champions League semi-final, the prospect of the Azulgrana losing both their domestic and European titles is becoming a source of some concern.
Piqué, however, dismissed the notion that Barcelona had become also-rans overnight. "It's easy to say it's the end of a cycle," said the Spanish international. "A team that has won so many titles deserves more credit. It's easy to say [it's the end] but we have won lots of titles so we deserve a little more respect."
As Barcelona seek the win that will keep them in the competition, Piqué added that there is no question of doubts creeping in. "I don't think any of our supporters doubt this team," he said. "We have given a lot and people recognise that we can lose a match because our opponents are very good, but I am sure the Camp Nou will be full and everyone will be behind the team. Culé fans do have a pessimistic tradition, but we have a great chance to qualify for another final and we have to prize this precious moment."
Should he face the Blues, Piqué will appreciate the opportunity more than most. The 25-year-old has made just 16 league and four UEFA Champions League starts this term, but he insists it is the club's fate – rather than his own – that concerns him most.
"I'm a Barcelona fan first and foremost," he explained. "Whether I play or not is not the big issue.
I was born in the stadium, my grandfather made me a club member when I was born, so it's not important if I play or not. All I want is for the team to win and to reach the final."
For that to happen the holders may need to find a way of stopping Didier Drogba, whose first-leg strike separates the sides, and Piqué's physical attributes make him ideally suited. "I have faced Drogba many times," said the former Manchester United FC centre-back, who was an unused substitute at Stamford Bridge last week. "The last one I remember was in the 2009 semi-final. He's one of the best strikers I have seen. He's at a great level because it isn't easy to score and he's been doing it for many years. He'll be a tough opponent if I face him.
"We have to be ourselves, have to control 90 minutes with the ball and in the end we will have our chances. I don't know if we'll score but we do need to create opportunities.
If we have 70% possession and control the game then we have a great chance to qualify. But Chelsea are very strong, very competitive and it's always difficult to face players like [Frank] Lampard and Drogba – they know what they're doing." Then again, after reaching two of the last three finals, so do Barcelona.
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