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Gerard Piqué says he learns a lot from training with Leo Messi / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Speaking to beIN Sports while visiting Qatar this week, Gerard Piqué started by explaining what a pleasure it was to be able to return to a country where “the support we have is fantastic. There are a lot of Barcelona fans in Qatar, and we are happy to be here and see how passionate they are about football and Barça.”

It's really good to have Messi in your team because you have this challenge every dayThe Barça centre-back is widely regarded as one of the finest defenders in the world. But in the modern game, what exactly does that entail? “Well, the best defender in the world has to be quick and to be good with the ball” he replied. “And he has to be tall because he has to be good in the air. He should be able to score goals when he joins the attack, from corner kicks or free kicks. 15 or 20 years ago a defender only had to defend. They didn't have to play the ball or make good passes. That was for midfielders and attackers.”

And how does Piqué cope with playing against the very best strikers in the world? “You have to watch their game, try to know whether they'll go right or left” he says. “And you have to concentrate hard because they are so fast and skilful … It's really good to have Messi in your team because you have this challenge every day. When you train with this kind of player, you improve your game.”

The atmosphere among the players is excellent and always has beenThere have been a number of different Barça coaches in recent years. But when asked if things are any different now that Luis Enrique is the man in charge, Piqué felt that “not a lot has changed. Barça has a very strong personality and the same style of play. We must have the ball and from there you get chances to score goals. Perhaps now we are a bit more aggressive, more direct, and there's less passing, but it's more or less the same.”

And he also denied the rumours of unrest among the Barça ranks. “The atmosphere among the players is really good and always has been” he insisted. “Sometimes there are arguments between players or with the coach, but that's normal in any team.”

In the Champions League you have to face the best in the world and City is one of themReal Madrid will always be what Piqué describes as “the biggest rival we have in Spain,” but last year it was Atlético Madrid who claimed the league title. And he’s convinced that “it's more fun for people who follow La Liga now that there is another competitor. It's more difficult for us but challenges in life are always fun. Atlético are a great team and we were really lucky to beat them in the cup and the league. But they'll be there fighting until the end of the season.”

And it won’t be long before Barça’s return to their European campaign, where they’ll be meeting the current Premiership champions. “We expect to beat [Manchester] City but it'll be a really tough game” said Piqué. “We beat them last year but it was really difficult. They have top quality players. But in the Champions League you have to face the best in the world and City is one of them.”


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