Barcelona defender Gerard Pique believes Barcelona have a “duty” to reclaim the Champions League this season after failing to make the semifinals last term.
Barcelona underlined their status as Spanish football’s most dominant side last season when they won the Copa del Rey and La Liga for the second time in 2015-16, yet there is still a sense of urgency at the start of the new campaign.
Having crashed out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals to Atletico Madrid, Luis Enrique’s side had to watch in frustration as their great rivals Real Madrid lifted the trophy in Europe’s elite competition after they won after beating Atletico on penalties.
“It’s the top competition [Champions League] and the most prestigious one,” Barcelona defender Gerard Pique told El Mundo Deportivo. “We are Barca, we have the duty to try to win every title. We hope this will be a great year.”
Pique said Barca, who had won the Champions League the year before, were nevertheless the best team in the country. They were the first team to capture La Liga and Copa titles in successive seasons since they had last managed to do in the 1997-98 campaign.
“For the last two years we have won the La Liga and the Copa del Rey titles and we have proved by far that we are the best team in this country by a big margin,” Pique said.
“For many years the Spanish double had not been retained and that means we are the team to beat. We need to continue in the same way.”
The Spanish champions have reinforced their squad with Andre Gomes, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne and Denis Suarez this summer.
Luis Enrique believes Barca now have their best-ever squad. Pique, however, says that it is hard to judge.
“It’s difficult to compare,” he said. “I don’t know if this is the most competitive one but it has plenty of quality.
“Young players have arrived and they bring a lot of enthusiasm and are ready to fight for a starting place, which is always positive for the team.”
French defender Umtiti made his La Liga debut in Saturday’s 6-2 rout of Real Betis at the Camp Nou, starting alongside Pique in Barca’s defensive line.
The 25-year-old joined Barca in a €25 million move from Lyon last month.
“He is a player with a very high level, he is young, eager,” Pique said. “But there are many players in that position, him, Jeremy [Mathieu], [Javier] Mascherano and me. Knowing our coach, I know the four of us will play.
“The important thing is that we give away few goals, keep as many clean sheets as possible, which is the key to winning titles.”
The Champions League draw will take place on Thursday in Monaco.
Barca visit Athletic Bilbao on Sunday in La Liga at the San Mames stadium.