February 21, 2018

Pique motivated by Espanyol tension, says Valverde

05 February 2018, 06:23 | Marlene Fleming

Suarez heads home from Lionel Messi's cross to secure a Copa del Rey semi-final first leg win

Suarez heads home from Lionel Messi's cross to secure a Copa del Rey semi-final first leg win

Espanyol beat their local rivals for the first time in nine years in first leg, but Barcelona advanced to the semifinals by winning the return leg 2-0, with post-match comments from Barca duo Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique rubbing salt in the wounds.

Lionel Messi came off the bench to cross for Pique's 83rd-minute header, which cancelled out Gerard Moreno's opener and kept Barca's unbeaten La Liga record intact.

After the German's fairly comfortable stop, aside from a Luis Suarez free-kick which skimmed the roof of the net on its way behind, there was little of note in the final 20 minutes of the first-half, with both sides heading into their respective dressing rooms with the scores equal.

The defender was referring to the area of Barcelona where the club have played their home games since 2009 in an attempt, Espanyol believe, to discredit them.

"They are from Cornella, like I said the other day", said Pique. I know it hurt them and I used sarcasm to annoy them but saying they play in Cornella is not disrespectful, it's a fact.

"Some of the fans here have been directing insults at me and my family for a long while".

"It means we're on a good run, although with regards to how I feel right now it doesn't tell me anything".

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"They complain about that and report me, but they don't investigate insults towards my family".

"A lot of noise is made about a lot of things, and then the fans are normal", he said. And as far as Ernesto Valverde is concerned, he has a lot to be optimistic and elated about.

There were shoves and heated discussions throughout the match, which was played under steady rain and on a heavy pitch.

"On our passes from defence the ball could get stuck in a puddle and that's why things got hard".

With just six wins all season, Espanyol come into this game in a lowly 15th place with just 24 points, having lost their last three games, 3-0 to Sevilla, 2-0 to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey - having won the first leg 1-0 - while also losing 3-2 to Leganes last time out.

"We have to repeat what we did in the cup match where we defended very well and didn't allow them many chances".

"We have had better performances but this draw is good considering the size of the opponent".

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