PARIS, April 5 – Barcelona defender Gerard Pique warned Saturday’s defeat to bitter rivals Real Madrid in El Clasico has fired up the holders for Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final, first leg at home to Atletico Madrid.
Atletico are Barca’s closest challengers in La Liga, trailing the Catalan giants by six points, but Luis Enrique’s men have dominated the side from the capital lately and won the last six meetings.
Spain international Pique is eager for that trend to continue and hopes Barca’s much-vaunted attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez will rediscover their form after a quiet evening against Real ended their 39-match unbeaten run.
“We will try to decide the tie in the first leg, especially after what happened on Saturday,” Pique told UEFA.com. “We will do the best we can and score as many goals as possible.
“It is always a challenge after a loss. We want to play again quickly, especially against a rival like Atletico. We want to prove that we are still the team that has won everything. We want to win it all again.”
Pique added that Atletico, who will welcome back Diego Godin from injury, were having a “spectacular” season, well aware that Diego Simeone’s side dumped Barca out at this stage of the 2013-14 competition when Los Rojiblancos lost to city rivals Real in heartbreaking fashion in the final.
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola will use last year’s surprise defeat to Porto to underline the threat posed by Portuguese league leaders Benfica ahead of their first leg in Germany.
Bayern lost 3-1 in Portugal to start their 2014-15 quarter-final tie before turning things around with a 6-1 demolition at the Allianz Arena, but Guardiola is mindful that Benfica, who have 19 wins in their last 20 games, represent Europe’s in-form side.
“I am Bayern coach and we always want to be the best but I really don’t think we are the favourites going into this. Benfica are playing very well at the moment and I have to admit I am very impressed,” said Guardiola, who is targeting the treble in his final season in Munich.
“But we are Bayern, and Bayern are always considered favourites. I have lots of respect for them and for Portuguese football. Remember what happened last year in Porto…”
Bayern have won all three previous meetings with Benfica in Europe, reaching at least the final in each of those years, but the Bundesliga leaders will be without Dutch winger Arjen Robben who is sidelined by a groin injury.