BARCELONA’S Gerard Pique has defended Didier Drogba from accusations the Chelsea striker is a diver ahead of this evening’s crucial Champions League semi-final.
Pique, who left Manchester United to become one of Barca manager Pep Guardiola’s first signings, was an unused substitute for Chelsea’s 1-0 victory in the first leg and said he believes Drogba’s repeated tumbles were genuine, despite the Ivory Coast international’s prior reputation and criticism from Barca captain Carles Puyol.
“I don’t think that, when Drogba went down, he was trying to act or dive,” Pique said. “If not we’ll start to talk about football not having fair play and being all about cheats. Football is not like that. We have to keep all the good things, and diving and cheating is not good. If he keeps doing that, you might end up thinking that’s the case. But I believe in his honesty.”
Pique has missed Barca’s last five matches but may be recalled after consecutive defeats to Chelsea and rivals Real Madrid and, as preparation for the possibility, has consulted former team-mate Rio Ferdinand on how to approach playing Drogba.
“Rio sent me a text message and wanted to talk to me,” he said. “Maybe that’s what he wants to talk about – we could talk about Drogba. He’s one of the best forwards I’ve ever seen. It’ll be a very hard duel if I’m in the starting XI.”
Intriguingly, for a side widely praised as club football’s best-ever, Pique also believes he and his team-mates deserve greater credit for their success, even if defeat tonight to Chelsea realistically leaves them with only the Copa del Rey to target.
“A team that has won 13 trophies in three-and-a-half years deserves more credit,” he said. “Other teams need to win more championships before we start talking like that. We deserve respect.”
Barca forward Alexis Sanchez is expected to be available after scoring as a substitute against Real on Saturday so, following the recovery from a knee ligament injury of Holland international Ibrahim Afellay and excluding long-term absentees David Villa (broken leg) and Eric Abidal (liver transplant), Guardiola has a fully-fit squad from which to choose.