Gerard Pique speaks at the pre-match press conference ahead of United v Barcelona

Pique: Reds' Paris result is a warning for us

Tuesday 09 April 2019 19:57

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique and head coach Ernesto Valverde will both be on their guard for Wednesday's game against Manchester United, after witnessing the Reds' remarkable win in the previous round of the UEFA Champions League.

The week before the pair either played in or plotted what proved to be a second-leg procession for Barca against Lyon, a thumping 5-1 victory, they looked across the continent as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men overcame the odds to beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in France and reach the quarter-finals on away goals, thanks to Marcus Rashford's last-gasp penalty.

"I watched both their games," revealed Pique. "Here [at Old Trafford], I think PSG played better and in the second half they scored and they could have scored some goals.

"But you cannot leave Manchester United alive. If you can beat them by scoring a lot of goals you have to do it, because they have a great team and have great history. United showed in the second leg in Paris, even though they played with a lot of young lads from the Academy, they won and they qualified in the last minute with a penalty.

"It’s a great example for us. We have to concentrate from the first minute to the last minute of the tie. We know Manchester United are very dangerous and we have to play our best game to qualify."
Pique, an ex-United defender of course, was asked what kind of game he anticipates at his former home ground.

"I expect a game where we’ll have a lot of the ball and they will try and hit us on the counter attack with strong, fast players like Rashford and Lukaku.

“We have to be on our guard and look out for set pieces like corners, and crosses into the box. They are an English side, so they are strong, tall and will take advantage of opportunities. We have to try and avoid those situations and if we are on our game and we are focused, we can try to stop them.”

Barcelona's head coach Ernesto Valverde also cited set pieces as an aspect in which the Reds could hurt his team, although he added "Manchester United are a team who have many more things."

He explained: "We know they are very strong in that aspect [set pieces] due to the size of their players. But we also have to be careful because of their speed on the counter attack and also with the impact that the fans can have.

“They have been gaining strength in the Champions League and they go into this game with high morale, wanting to show what they can do and, of course, they want to go through.”

Ernesto Valverde, pictured at the pre-match press conference.
Valverde was speaking to the media three hours after Solskjaer did the same and revealed that he could be without both Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera in United's midfield.

Quizzed on whether he might try to capitalise on those absences by selecting an attacking player in the same area of the field, Philippe Coutinho, the Barcelona boss replied:

"Taking into account the problems that they had in Paris and then looking at the result, I don’t think it’s a problem [for them]. They had a lot more players out for that game."

The 55-year-old Spaniard has a midfielder of his own to worry about, Ousmane Dembélé. The France midfielder travelled to Manchester but may not play for fear of aggravating a hamstring injury, just as he did in the last round against Lyon when he came on as a substitute (and scored), having been a doubt prior to the game.
"We’ll see how he is in tonight’s training session, to see how he is and whether he can be fit or not," said Valverde, shortly before his players went out to work on the Old Trafford pitch.

"Regardless, it’s not the same situation as against Lyon. It’s not the second leg. We have to be aware that in the last game we perhaps forced it a little and we are not going to run that risk this time just in case it reoccurs."

One reporter suggested to Valverde that if Dembele does not feature, it could lead to a change of system - 4-4-2 with Chile international Arturo Vidal coming into the side. But the coach declined to confirm this, countering: "We will see tomorrow. We’re not going to rush into any decisions.

“We don’t know what the opposition is going to do. We’ll find out tomorrow how we are going to play, but I feel that both teams are going to continue to play the way they have been doing recently.”

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