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Apr 23, 2012

Pique: No rift with Pep

Gerard Pique insists there are no problems with Pep Guardiola and that he will accept his decision if left out of Tuesday's Champions League semi-final second leg with Chelsea.

• Drogba set for fitness test
• Xavi: Fans will inspire us
• Ball: Champions elect
• Blog: Why Barca will beat Blues

Pique has been a key part of the Barcelona side since returning to the club after a four-year spell with Manchester United, but he has recently fallen out of favour.

He has not featured since sustaining a thigh injury in the Champions League victory over AC Milan, missing the last five games, and rumours have emerged of a falling-out with Guardiola.

Reports in Spain suggest that Pique will be reinstated as Barca look to overturn a 1-0 deficit against the Blues at the Camp Nou, but the player told a pre-match press conference: "For me, the important issue isn't whether I play tomorrow. Probably for the press it is. For me, the main thing is that we win and reach the final."

He added: "Being on the bench is a new situation for me. I haven't had a chance in recent games. It's a technical decision made by the coach - he believes that others can do better against particular opponents. That's all it is, and I respect his decisions.

"The players analyse and criticise themselves on a daily basis. After every game you play, you analyse your performance and from there try to improve for the next game. I try to show the coaching team that I am worthy of a starting place and that's it."

The player's father has said that any reports of problems with Guardiola are "imaginary", and Pique added: "Since we were united, we have been part of a very beautiful era in the club's history.

"I have great confidence in Guardiola. We have a good relationship. I spoke with the coach on Friday again - we talk a lot more than people think, and not just about football. He told me what he thought, and that's it. He's always tough on me. He has been since the first year, but I like that. My relationship with him is very, very good."

Guardiola has yet to extend his contract at Barca, but Pique said: "I'd bet he'll be with us again next year."

Should Pique start on Tuesday, he would come up against Didier Drogba, whose fine performance in the first leg was overshadowed by perceived theatrics.

Former Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney criticised Drogba on Twitter, but Pique defended the Ivorian.

"I believe in Drogba that, every time he fell down, it was because he was in pain, or he felt a kick on him," Pique said. "I don't think that, when Drogba fell down, he was trying to act or dive.

"If not, we'll start to talk about football not having fair play and being all about cheats. Football is not like that. We have to keep all the good things, and diving and cheating is not good."

He added: "If he keeps doing that, you might end up thinking that's the case (that he is not hurt), but I believe in his honesty."

Barcelona, having dominated the sport in recent years, have faced questions as to whether their reign is coming to an end following the defeats to Chelsea and Real Madrid over the last week, but Pique feels that talk is premature.

"A team that has won 13 trophies in three and a half years deserves more credit than that," he said. "Other teams need to win more championships before we start talking like that. We deserve respect."

Meanwhile, Lionel Messi was present at training on Monday after missing Sunday's session with what Barca described as "slight physical discomfort".

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