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The defender has dismissed criticism of his coach and says the players at Camp Nou are responsible for their disappointing season

Gerard Pique has leapt to the defence of Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino by admitting it is the players and not the Argentine who are to blame for their recent struggles.

The Catalan club were knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals two weeks ago, before a late Gareth Bale goal saw them lose 2-1 to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

Barca are also four points behind league leaders Atletico in the Primera Division, but Pique says it is the fault of the squad for their failure to reach the levels of previous seasons.

“There are no excuses, we haven’t performed as well as desired and we’re the first to take the blame. But we all have to look at ourselves,” Pique told reporters.

“I think that [Barca coach Gerardo] Martino is not to blame at all for what has happened this season. He came in at the last minute and he has worked hard.

“We’re Barca and we’ll always be fighting fit. It hasn’t been our best season, but we’ll pick ourselves up.

“The future is exciting and we’ll make it a success. I trust the people who run the club, we have a great squad.”

Pique is also disappointed by the public criticism of Lionel Messi and highlighted how the player has been a fundamental part of the club’s success in recent times.

“He’s the best player in history and I can’t get my head round him being criticised. Thanks to him, we’ve won what we’ve won," he added.

“Leo loves the club, he loves the city, he feels it’s his home and I’ll be able to tell [my son] Milan and my kids that I played with him.”

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