Barcelona defender Gerard Pique believes Atletico Madrid could now be serious La Liga title contenders.
Diego Simeone’s men are level on points at the top of the table with Barca, both teams having won their opening eight fixtures, and Pique acknowledged the giant strides made by Los Rojiblancos since the arrival of Simeone at the Vicente Calderon.
“I’m convinced that after the great match they played at Madrid, which surprised me, they will not let up.
“They don’t have our style of play but are solid in defence, break well on the counter-attack and have Diego Costa.
“They know their own game and that is vital for any team. We hope to be alongside them in the fight and in two or three months we will have a better idea,” maintained Pique in an exclusive interview with La Vanguardia.
He also alluded to the war of words via Twitter with Spanish international colleague Alvaro Arbeloa, following the controversial late penalty awarded to Real Madrid at Elche.
“I don’t regret [posting] what I did but I think it has been dramatised too much. I commented on a situation and afterwards a Real Madrid player answered me.
“It seems there is a great conflict if either I address Alvaro or he addresses me. I commented on the refereeing and he made reference to Barca…In the end, there is no lack of respect or bad feeling from anyone.”
On the subject of Victor Valdes’ departure at the end of the season he was quite critical.
“Victor has always been in the spotlight and now he’s leaving, by a coincidence, everybody loves him. Sometimes at Barca we are too critical and too negative.”
Pique also acknowledged it was hard to take when former boss Tito Vilanova suffered a relapse in his battle against illness.
“It was a very hard blow, particularly for the club after the Coach needed to be changed when the pre-season had already started, but above all for him.
“Tito is one of the people I most appreciate in the world of football,” he added.