Barcelona defender Gerard Pique hit out at local rivals Espanyol, criticising their supporters and players in the aftermath of the second of three quickfire games between the two sides.
After the Catalan outfits played out an ill-tempered 0-0 draw in La Liga on Saturday, they locked horns again in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 clash at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, with the Blaugrana winning 4-1 in another feisty affair that saw the visitors reduced to nine men.
When asked about the Estadi Cornella-El Prat outfit, Pique had a few scathing words, per Marca:
They call themselves the 'marvellous minority', and they're in such a minority that they can't even fill their ground. Let's see whether they manage to fill it for the return leg, because the other day it wasn't full. ...
This is football, not American football. The other day we had a referee who let them get away with everything, but today's didn’t. I think that we pulled off a really good result. They're still alive in the tie because it isn't won yet, although that fourth goal gives us some breathing space. Now it's time to think ahead to our next game.
On the night, Espanyol actually took the lead through Felipe Caicedo before a brilliant brace from Lionel Messi, a goal from Pique and a fine volley from Neymar left the tie almost beyond any doubt.
Espanyol’s occasionally roughhouse tactics went unpunished in the Primera Division game, but in the Copa del Rey, they had Hernan Perez and Pape Diop sent off late in the match. As we can see here, courtesy of Matchbook.com, Messi was also on the end of a nasty challenge:
Keep an eye on Pau Lopéz's glance at Messi's leg before this stamp; very poor form! https://t.co/vHNFeNOFMi2016-1-7 09:41:24
Of course, there will always be a bit of needle in derby matches. And given Barcelona’s quality, Espanyol may feel as though they need to level the playing field by being physical. But it’s a ploy many teams have attempted against this Blaugrana side, whose quality typically sees them emerge victorious regardless.
As is evident by Pique’s comments, he was unhappy with some of the tactics deployed. However, it seems as though he wasn’t the only one to make his feelings known, per AS English:
AS English @English_AS
Ref says Suárez started the confrontation with Espanyol players by saying: “I’m waiting for you here. Come here. You’re a piece of rubbish”2016-1-6 23:31:22
When bitter rivals play a succession of games against each other over such a short stint, tempers are always going to flare, and Pique is never one to mince his words in an attempt to pacify matters. Indeed, you suspect he’ll now be the primary target of the “magnificent minority” when they take to the field for the second leg on Jan. 13.
They’re words that are likely to spur on the home players too, but if they continue to snap at their opponents, it could easily be to the advantage of the Camp Nou outfit. Regardless of the circumstances, Espanyol will always enjoy getting under the skin of their elite neighbours with victory always unlikely.