Pique backs Bartra to impress for Barca
Gerard Pique says Marc Bartra is ready for a spell in the Barcelona team, but the talented youngster must remember to concentrate primarily on his defensive duties.
• Tomas: Barca silence critics
Centre-half Bartra, 22, replaced Javier Mascherano early in Tuesday's 4-1 La Liga win over Real Sociedad, and now looks set to play at Almeria next Saturday in La Liga and at Celtic in the Champions League on Tuesday, with Barca confirming on Wednesday morning that the Argentina international would be "sidelined for 10 to 15 days".
Pique told Barca TV after the game that he was confident Bartra, who featured in both legs of last season's 7-0 aggregate Champions League semi-final defeat to Bayern Munich, would make the most of his latest chance to impress.
"Marc has shown when he plays that he can do well," Pique said. "Last year, when he began to play and came in against Bayern, it was impossible to have a big role and show what he is worth. We must count on Marc because we are so few at the back."
The La Masia graduate's current playing style reminded him of his own marauding performances, said the former Manchester United defender.
"When I see Marc Bartra I am reminded of myself with the crazy surges up the field," Pique said. "You must keep in line and stay serious. These are things that you get with experience, and realising that you must stay back."
Pique also said he remained firmly behind new coach Gerardo Martino's evolution of Barca's style, while admitting that the team could become more stretched, making things harder for defenders.
"Today you saw our best version, but there will be games when we cannot play like this," he said. "We must look for variants in our game. The more options you have, the better. That is what 'Tata' wants to instil in us. With the verticality of the team, our [defensive] lines can suffer quite a lot. It gives the forward an advantage. But physically I feel good and when you have no injury problems you feel more in control."
Mascherano apparently picked up the problem in the opening moments of Tuesday’s game at the Camp Nou when he collided with team-mate Sergio Busquets. Tests the following morning confirmed a hamstring sprain which would keep the former Liverpool man out of action for up to two weeks.
"Javier Mascherano underwent medical tests on Wednesday morning to determine the extent of the injury suffered in last night’s league match at home to Real Sociedad," a club statement read. “It has been confirmed that he has sprained his right hamstring and will therefore be sidelined for 10 to 15 days. If the Club Medical Services are correct with their forecast, then Mascherano will miss the league matches against Almeria (September 28) and Valladolid (October 5), and the Champions League clash with Glasgow Celtic (October 1). These are Barça’s last three games before the international break. There will be no more games after that until the trip to Pamplona to play Osasuna on October 19.
Mascherano apparently picked up the problem in the opening moments of Tuesday's game at the Camp Nou when he collided with team-mate Sergio Busquets. A club statement released afterwards gave no expected time-frame for recovery, but Mundo Deportivo suggested the Argentine would be on the sidelines for a week or so.
"Barca's No. 14 pcked up a knock at the start of the match which eventually forced the player off the pitch," the Barca statement said. "Initial tests indicate that Mascherano has a hamstring injury in his right leg. The player will undergo additional tests on Wednesday to determine the extent of his injury. Mascherano joins [Carles] Puyol, who is recovering from knee surgery, and Jordi Alba, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, on the injury list."
Speaking after Tuesday's game Bartra was not drawn on his hopes to get a long run in the team, saying he would just keep working hard in training.
"The most important thing is to keep on training hard," he told Barca's website. "We cannot let our guard down, we have to be consistent and we must move forward."
Bartra, a member of Spain's 2013 European Under-21 Championship-winning side, did speak about his joy at scoring his side's fourth goal against La Real.
"I needed a goal like that because it gives you confidence," he said. "It will help me to not let up and to keep on going. I was already on a run with the play started. When I saw Messi my intuition told me to go forward. I need to know when to attack. I would like to go forward more often by my job is to defend."