Gerard Piqué insists that he and his defensive colleagues at FC Barcelona will not underestimate a Sporting Clube de Portugal attack that has scored just nine goals in as many matches in the Portuguese Liga this term.
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Gerard Piqué insists he and his defensive colleagues will not underestimate Sporting Clube de Portugal's underachieving attack as FC Barcelona aim to secure first place in UEFA Champions League Group C at the Estádio José Alvalade.
Both Barcelona and their Portuguese rivals have already qualified for the last 16 of the competition, but with the group winners still undecided there will be much to play for in Lisbon. Sporting's shot-shy strikers – scorers of just nine goals in their first nine Liga matches this season – will come face-to-face with a visiting back line boasting the second-best defensive record in the Spanish élite. Nevertheless, Piqué is certain he and his team-mates will need to be on their toes.
"They will have two very good strikers out there, with Liedson on the right and whoever plays with him," he said. "They also have [João] Moutinho, who can break forward from midfield. We will have to be vigilant at all times and take great care with them." The 21-year-old intends to return to Catalonia on Thursday with top spot in the group wrapped up. "This is a very important game for us – we want to finish first."
If Barça's rearguard maintain their niggardly form, Piqué is confident the club's array of forward talent will make the breakthrough at the other end. The Spanish pacesetters have hit a staggering 37 goals in their first 12 games of the Liga campaign, and their former Manchester United FC centre-half is not expecting that pattern to change. "If we [the defence] can do our job, we are always confident of scoring the goals we need to win games further upfield."
Sporting's Marco Caneira is more than aware of the threat their Iberian opponents pose. "[Lionel] Messi and [Samuel] Eto'o are very dangerous," he said. "Those two are the very best in the world. We will have to be very careful with them." The 29-year-old anticipates an entertaining spectacle despite both sides being assured of progress. "It's going to be a great match. We want to show what we can do against one of the best teams in the world. But it's not a friendly. Three points are at stake and we want to get first place."
Caneira has overcome recent injury problems and is relishing the chance to renew rivalries with Josep Guardiola's men, having spent time with Valencia CF earlier in his career. The versatile defender is even dreaming of repeating his solitary European goal, a superb long-range strike that gave Sporting a 1-0 win over FC Internazionale Milano during his first spell at the Alvalade. "It's always a source of great happiness to score against the biggest clubs," he said. "But the most important thing for us is the three points."