Gerard Pique says Barcelona must learn from last season’s Champions League collapse against Roma and be wary of Manchester United’s powers of recovery ahead of Wednesday’s quarter-final clash.
Defender Pique, who was part of the United squad that won the European Cup in 2008 before returning to Catalonia, was on the winning side as Barca beat United in Champions League finals in 2009 and 2011.
Pique won the tournament for the fourth time in 2015 but in each season since, the Spanish league leaders have fallen at the quarter-final stage.
The most painful exit came last year when they blew a 4-1 first leg lead by losing 3-0 to Roma to bow out on away goals.
United are in the last eight for just the second time since the sides last met in the final but also showed their capacity to fight back by overturning a 2-0 first-leg defeat at home to beat big-spending Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.
“The game against PSG is a great example. They (PSG) were better, but you cannot let United off the hook because they have a great team and a great history as they showed in Paris,” Pique said on Tuesday.
“We learned (from Roma) that things happen, even if it seemed unimaginable that they will.
“We learned that you cannot let an opponent back into a tie if they are not killed off. That will help us for facing a team like United.
“If at any point we can kill off the tie, we have to do it.”
Tasked with derailing Barca’s bid for a third treble since 2009 and stopping an in-form Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, United will be cast in the role of underdog just as they were in the last round.
The appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the new permanent manager of the English giants has coincided with a dip in form, with United losing three of their four games since winning in Paris.
But the Norwegian is also seeking inspiration from the PSG tie and believes his side have learned from what they did wrong in losing the first leg on home soil.
“Of course when you get Barcelona, with the quality of their team, we know we need to step up our game,” said Solskjaer.
“We know we need to perform to our best levels, which we didn’t against PSG at home. The outcome of the second leg against PSG has given the players and supporters belief that the same is possible against Barcelona.”
– United comeback –
United’s comeback at the Parc des Princes was even more remarkable as Solskjaer was without 10 first-team players.
He is short-handed once more, with Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia and Eric Bailly absent through injury.
However, Solskjaer is hopeful that Marcus Rashford and Nemanja Matic will be fit for the first leg despite failing to take a full part in training on Tuesday.
“He needed an extra warm-up and hopefully he won’t get a reaction,” said Solskjaer on Rashford’s fitness. “Let’s see tomorrow, but hopefully he can be ready.”
With Rashford a doubt, United are even more in need of an inspirational performance from Paul Pogba.
The Frenchman will return from suspension after being sent off in the first-leg defeat to PSG.
Pogba has yet to truly shine on the Champions League stage for United but with speculation, he could be tempted by a summer move to Real Madrid, Solskjaer called on the club’s record signing to focus on his job tomorrow and rise to the big occasion.
“At Paul’s best he can run a game like this,” said Solskjaer. “Paul is looking forward to tomorrow. He is a Manchester United player and he is one of our big performers on the big stage.
“He knows the game against PSG was not his greatest moment. He is only focused on tomorrow playing well against Barcelona and I cannot see him not playing for Manchester United next season.”