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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique enjoys stoking Real Madrid rivalry

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno and Mark Donaldson assess Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's weekend performances, with both players enduring disappointing matches.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has said he enjoys his role as instigator ahead of the April 2 Clasico against La Liga rivals Real Madrid. 

As the two teams take international break ahead of their meeting at the Camp Nou, the Catalan club are a full 10 points ahead of Zinedine Zidane's men in the Spanish Primera Division table. But Real Madrid won their home match against Sevilla in convincing fashion last weekend while Barcelona and second-place Atletico Madrid struggled in below-par away displays. 

And the former Manchester United defender, who has courted endless controversy with social media to mock Real Madrid and their players, said he loves stoking up the rivalry and is aware of how much pride is at stake after Barcelona's solid 4-0 victory in their first Clasico leg back in November.

"The Barca-Madrid rivalry is what has always kept us among the greatest clubs," Pique told GQ Magazine. "That is why I like to incite that rivalry every once in a while. I am not trying to provoke just to provoke. I like that it gets a rise out of people and I consider that to also be part of the show. I don't think of myself as more real than other folks. I am very clear about how my personality is and I behave accordingly."

The 28-year-old has riled La Liga rivals Real Madrid with his regular use of Twitter to joke about problems facing his club's big rivals Madrid. After Barcelona's Treble-winning 2014-15 season, he mocked Cristiano Ronaldo while taking on a public war of words with international teammates Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos this season. He has also delighted in poking fun of Real Madrid's controversial exit from the Copa del Rey. 

Last month, Pique began to use Periscope to broadcast live after games. UEFA said it will not allow players to release live images from stadiums during Euro 2016 and La Liga president Javier Tebas said on Monday that he is considering banning the use of social media during and immediately after matches.

Regarding the national team, he said he will always be grateful. The current European champions play friendlies against Italy in Udine on Thursday and Romania in Cluj on Sunday in preparation for the summer's Euro 2016 finals in France.

"The national team are a family. We are teammates who have been sharing the dressing room for years -- we have shared victories, defeats, doubts, problems, happiness, injuries and dreams," he said. "And I am not only talking about players, but also the physios, doctors, coaches, staff. Playing for the national team has given me so much. We have had good experiences and so many memories. I will play with them until I can no longer physically and mentally."

On Tuesday, Pique opened another Periscope video chat window from his hotel room in Italy where the team are preparing. He was accompanied by Sergio Ramos and Marc Bartra as they answered questions from fans.

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