Barcelona captain Iniesta defends Pique after Espanyol goal celebration

Barcelona captain Iniesta defends Pique after Espanyol goal celebration

The game, which was hit by torrential rain, did not see its first goal until the 66th minute when Gerard Moreno converted Sergio Garcia's cross with a thumping header.

FC Barcelona face the shortest, but one of the toughest away trips before the end of the season when they travel to face local rivals on Sunday afternoon.

"He's not ready to play right now", he said at a press conference ahead of Sunday's game.

However, whilst the lead was temporarily extended at the top of the table, it was reduced to nine-points when, in the late fixture, Atletico Madrid beat Valencia 1-0. After the equalizer, Pique celebrated by putting a finger in front of his mouth as if to tell the crowd to be quiet.

But, with Ernesto Valverde throwing Messi into the fray Barcelona did manage to get back on to level terms.

Pique, who scored Barcelona's late equaliser in Sunday's draw with Espanyol, sustained the injury during the second half of the hard-fought Catalan derby at Cornella-El Prat.

It represents Barca's best-ever start to a campaign, bettering the 21 games Pep Guardiola's side went without defeat in 2009-10.

After that match, Pique's tone when talking about Espanyol infuriated rival fans and prompted an official complaint by the club.

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"We will try to take good care of him as we did when he recovered from the previous injury".

But Espanyol midfielder Esteban Granero said respect is a two-way street.

Imagine this: of Barcelona's 60 league goals this season, Messi has been involved in half.

But the way they defended and barely offered Spain's best attack a sniff at goal will be encouraging for a team that's languishing in 15th place.

Football fans are convinced the Argentinian forward proved his ability to "do it on a cold, wet, rainy night in Stoke" after his display at Espanyol - especially after seeing the very first thing he did.

Messi started on the bench as Barcelona plays at Valencia in the Copa del Rey semifinals on Thursday, when it will defend a 1-0 first-leg win. Despite losing the first leg at Espanyol, 1-0, Barcelona won the tie thanks to a 2-0 victory in Camp Nou.

Espanyol thought they had scored seconds after the restart but Moreno's effort was ruled out because the ball had gone out of play moments before.

Gerard Pique could miss the upcoming Copa del Rey decider against Valencia.