Defender Gerard Pique, who was omitted from the lineup last week in Barcelona's 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions' League semifinal, denies rumors of a rift between him and Coach Pep Guardiola.
Pique, regarded as one of the key figures in Barcelona's evolution in recent years, also did not play against rival Real Madrid in a 2-1 home loss Saturday that all but extinguished its chances of repeating as league champion. He spoke to reporters Monday during the buildup to the decisive second leg to be played at Camp Nou Wednesday.
The 25-year-old defender said, "It is a new situation for me because I'm used to playing and in the last matches I have not had a chance to play. But it's a technical decision of the manager and I have to respect that."
Pique learnt his trade at Barcelona before spending the early part of his career at Manchester United, eventually returning to Catalonia in 2008 at the start of Guardiola's reign as coach. "We got here together in the same year -- him as a coach and me as a player," Pique said. "We're part of a very important era for this club and I trust him," Pique said.