• Defender says team can overcome 2-0 deficit
• He tells fans who don't believe it to hand in membership cards
Gerard Piqué has called on Barcelona fans to have faith in their team or hand in their membership cards, if only for one night. The central defender, grandson of a former director and a member of the club since birth, took a step forward with a message that he wanted to deliver and others wanted to hear – as much motivational speech as media appearance.
This appeared to be a directive delivered to the squad as well as the supporters ahead of Tuesday night's home Champions League tie against Milan. Barça trail 2-0 from the first leg with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
At times direct, often challenging, there was an edge to his words last night. "There are," Piqué said, "no excuses". He insisted that for all the pessimism of the last fortnight, Barcelona's season has been "brilliant" and that he is convinced that they can go through – even if that means scoring four goals.
None of the results Barcelona have achieved at home in this year's Champions League would be enough to see them through, but Piqué insisted there are sufficient reasons to be optimistic. "If anyone doesn't think we can win, they should give their membership card to a friend who will come and support us," he said.
"I was looking at the league table earlier and we've scored more goals than anyone else, something like 20 more than the team in second place. If there is one thing that this team does not lack it is goals. We know it is Milan that stand before us, a great side, and small details may decide the tie, but I am convinced that we will have chances.
"If the fans do not believe in us, I would say to them: look at the last four or five years, or even the last 20 or so.
"For 90 years this was a club that never won anything, then Johan Cruyff arrived [in 1988] and changed our history. Then [Franck] Rijkaard, then [Pep] Guardiola and Tito [Vilanova]. You have to have faith in this team. People seem to have short memories, they don't seem to realise that we can do this … and more."
If there seemed to be a spark of indignation, something vindicatory about Piqué's words, he denied that.
Asked if he felt like Barcelona had to get through in order to silence the critics, he replied: "No, not at all. We're top of the table, 13 points ahead of the team in second and we now could go through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It's hard? Yes, it's hard, but we can.
"The season has been brilliant, magnificent. We got knocked out of Real Madrid in the Cup, sure. That can happen. But now we want to try to get through against Milan: not to shut people's mouths but because we're ambitious and I am convinced that we can. The pitch will be perfect, the grass short and wet, we're in front of our fans. There are no excuses." The question is how Barcelona approach the game, given the likelihood of Milan playing deep and trying to deny them space, much as they did in the first leg. "We have played against teams that have done that for five years," Piqué said, "and we know how to overcome teams like that, but of course it is difficult. And on this occasion we're talking about Milan: lots of teams do that but few do it as well as Milan.
"We will have to open the pitch out as much as we can. It's a big pitch and we have to take advantage of that; we have to move the ball very quickly. With the players we have up front I trust 100% that we will have many, many chances on goal. We have to pressure high up the pitch and hopefully we can get an early goal – but you never know."
So far, so good. But one end of the pitch has been largely forgotten as supporters and media build up to this tie. All the talk of Barcelona's attack could be rendered meaningless by an away goal. If Milan score, Barcelona's task becomes gigantic: they would need at least four goals. Cesc Fábregas has demanded that the side play more with their heads than their hearts. Piqué agreed. "We have to play with our head," he said. "That is the way we have always played and we have own a lot of titles that way. If Milan score it could do us real damage; it would make things very complicated. You can think you're playing well and Milan arrive and get a goal and that's it. We have to be very careful, very focused at the back. But there's always a chance to score.
"In our stadium Manchester United won a European Cup when they were losing in the 92nd minute. We will fight until the 94th minute to win and we can score four if we have to."