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The Spain international has admitted that the players are keen to put all of the criticism and controversy they have experienced behind them by triumphing at the Etihad

Gerard Pique says Barcelona is driven by the desire to prove it remains the best side in the world by beating Manchester City on Tuesday.

The Blaugrana lineup that won two Champions Leagues in three years under former boss Pep Guardiola were regarded by some pundits as the finest club side ever to play the game.

However, Barca has twice been beaten in the semifinals since last winning the trophy in 2011, while its current campaign has been overshadowed by the resignation of Sandro Rosell as club president as well as criticism of the club's more direct approach under new coach Tata Martino.

Consequently, Pique says that Tata Martino's men are determined to put all of the off-field controversy behind them by restoring their reputation as the dominant force in European football.

"We know that in the club in the last six months there have been things that the players cannot control," the defender told reporters on the eve of the last 16, first leg clash at the Etihad. "All we can do [Tuesday] is show the world that we can still be the best by trying to play a great game against Manchester City.

"Maybe other teams don't fear us as before, but I think they still respect us. We still have a lot of players who have won World Cups and Champions League. Tomorrow is a great chance to go on the pitch and show that we are top players and that we can win here."

However, Pique is well aware that the Liga leaders are going up against a rapidly improving City side, which he believes is now on the same level as Barca.

Indeed, the center half pointed to the fact that as well as Spain teammate Alvaro Negredo, Manuel Pellegrini's side boasts a host of other attacking threats.

"Negredo is an exceptional player," Pique said. "He's had an excellent season but there's not just him. [Yaya] Toure, [Samir] Nasri, [Edin] Dzeko - they can all score goals. So, We have to be very aware of set pieces and defend them well. We have to be careful not to concede too many fouls.

"They lost against Chelsea [in the Premier League] but won against them in the FA Cup the other day [Saturday]. Obviously we are on the same level now."

Meanwhile, Pique admitted he was happy to be back in Manchester, having spent four years with United - which included a loan spell at Zaragoza - before rejoining Barcelona in 2008.

"I arrived when I was a kid; I was just 17," he said. "I would have liked to have played more, but I learned a lot in Manchester. Arsenal actually approached me first but Cesc [Fabregas] had gone there the year before and the way things went [between the two clubs] wasn't very good, so that made things very difficult.

"So, Sir Alex Ferguson approached me with open arms. He took me to dinner with the family. So it was a very special time and I still always say that Manchester United are my second team after Barca. But I'm very happy at Barcelona. It's the club of my life and I'm not thinking about leaving."

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