Football

Barca treble dream

But champions-elect still have a job to do at Atletico, warns Pique

ATL. MADRID v BARCELONA

(Tomorrow, 1am, Singtel TV Ch 114 & StarHub TV Ch 208)

Barcelona star Gerard Pique has urged his side to keep their feet on the ground as they chase a trophy treble, the first of which could be sealed early tomorrow morning (S’pore time), after strike action in the Spanish top flight was averted.

In the next three weeks, Barca will have two opportunities to win La Liga as well as facing Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final and Juventus in the final of the Champions League.

It is a chance for the Catalan giants to repeat their historic haul from 2009, when they won all six trophies available to them in the calendar year, but Pique knows they cannot afford to get ahead of themselves.

Speaking ahead of the trip to outgoing champions Atletico Madrid, where victory would guarantee Barca their 23rd Spanish title, Pique said: “Looking at the teams that have won the treble gives you an appreciation of how difficult it is.

“There are other teams vying too, and the way people are talking it’s as if we’d already won the treble, and that’s not the case. The finals are against two historic clubs and we still haven’t won anything yet.

“We’re close, but we have to keep our feet on the ground.”

In a quirk of fate, Atletico won last season’s championship at the Nou Camp after holding title rivals Barca to a 1-1 draw on the final day ---and now the Catalan club can do likewise on Atletico’s home ground after strike action over TV rights in La Liga was called off on Thursday.

Pique insists Barca are not out to avenge last year,though,their thoughts are only on sealing the title at the first opportunity and not having to wait until their final match against Deportivo La Coruna.

SKY-HIGH

The Spain international defender, whose side boast a four-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid, said: “We hope to win the league there because it’s as soon as possible, not because we want to take revenge.”

Barca will go into the match with confidence sky-high, having taken 34 points from a possible 36 since their last defeat in La Liga, and this week reaching the Champions League final after overcoming Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregate.

Their all-star forward line of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have played a huge part in that success, and Pique admits he cannot recall an attack like it. “I’ve never seen a trio like this,” he said.

“We’ve enjoyed great players, but the quality they have, how they complement each other, the connection they have between them --- we’re talking about something unique.”

Whether the three South Americans can line up together at the Vicente Calderon is in doubt though, with Suarez struggling with a hamstring problem.

Although they can no longer retain their title, Atletico still have something to play for this season as they try to protect their third place from Valencia, who are four points further back.

Rojiblancos goalkeeper Jan Oblak knows it will not be easy to get anything off Barca, but is not throwing in the towel. He said: “There’s no fear, but we know that it’s not easy to stop them.

“I’m sure that we can beat any team in the world. We have to play with a lot of intensity, be very focused and do a lot of running, and in the end we’ll see what happens.

“The objective was to be third and we’re going to achieve that. If we do get it, the view of the season will be positive.”


OTHER FIXTURES

Tomorrow:

  • Cordoba v Rayo Vallecano
  • Deportivo v Levante
  • Elche v Ath Bilbao
  • Getafe v Eibar
  • Real Sociedad v Granada
  • Sevilla v Almeria
  • Valencia v Celta Vigo
  • Villarreal v Malaga