Why Gerard Pique Is Under Pressure to Prove Himself at Barcelona to Luis Enrique

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2014

Gerard Pique scored the winner for Barca.
Gerard Pique scored the winner for Barca.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Gerard Pique scored the winner for Barcelona against APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday night and it was the first step in the long road to proving himself to manager Luis Enrique. 

The centre-back carefully directed Lionel Messi's free-kick into the net, breaking the deadlock and earning Enrique his first three points in the Champions League.

But the fact that Pique was playing already shows that he has plenty of work to do to get back in the first team at Barcelona.

That's not a statement that applies across the board, with Lionel Messi and Neymar, clearly first-choice players, both also starting.

But for the most part, Enrique put out his second string, starting with a chance for Marc-Andre ter Stegen to show what he's got in goal.

Dani Alves also took to the field, but he was making a comeback from injury.

Adriano, Marc Bartra, Sergi Roberto, Sergi Samper and Xavi were all afforded rare starts and Pique will feel he is in their bracket at the moment.

Pique was part of a reserve team, for the most part.
Pique was part of a reserve team, for the most part.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Barcelona have kept three clean sheets in three games in La Liga and much of that is down to Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu.

It is a strong partnership, with each player making up for whatever the other lacks.

Pique will feel he has what it takes to break into it, ahead of Mascherano, who is more comfortable in defensive midfield.

However, his start to life under Enrique has been more notable for the off-field pranks he has been playing rather than his football.

Pique was the first player fined by the boss, for turning up late to a team meeting, per the Daily Mail.

He was also causing mischief in Helsinki, when he let off stink bombs on two occasions during the trip for the pre-season friendly, per SPORT.

Pique gets up to no good off the field.
Pique gets up to no good off the field.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

With Thomas Vermaelen soon to be back in action after extensive physiotherapy, there is another contender for the place in the core of Enrique's defence.

That makes five players who can play in that position for Barcelona, meaning Pique faces a struggle to get back in.

He spoke about how he feels undervalued at Barcelona before the APOEL clash. At a press conference he said, per SPORT:

I always try to do the best possible. I am happy with the level I have shown in the minutes I have played. I can't do anything about the public opinion. I feel that, for a while, I have not been valued for what I have done sportingly. I have been learning more every year. The years remaining in my career will be the same. I say that calmly because I work hard every day. I'm proud to be part of this squad and this club.

Pique has won a lot of trophies.
Pique has won a lot of trophies.Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

The Spanish centre-back sounded defensive and protective over what he has achieved.

It is understandable and to write him off completely would be foolish, but Pique really needs to speak with his performances on the pitch.

A solid display against APOEL was a good start and netting the match-winner was just the feather in his cap. Now he needs to kick on. 

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