Pique: Jose causing dressing-room unrest
Gerard Pique claims that Jose Mourinho has given up trying to cause "tension" between the Barcelona and Real Madrid camps because he is busy stirring up trouble in his own dressing-room.
While last Sunday's Clasico at Camp Nou was notably more friendly than some played in recent years, the current season has already seen Mourinho heavily criticise a number of his own players in public and surprisingly drop regular centre-back Sergio Ramos and playmaker Mesut Ozil in an apparent bid to motivate the two.
Pique told Catalunya Radio on Wednesday that it looked to him as if the Portuguese boss was deliberately looking to create a heated atmosphere among his own side.
"The tension that there was between us and Real Madrid last year has passed," Pique said. "Mourinho has realised that he should not look for something in Barcelona because he will find nothing. At the end he is looking for that [tension] at home."
Both Ramos and Ozil were back last weekend for the 2-2 draw in the Clasico, which maintained Barcelona's eight-point Primera Division lead. Pique warned that being behind in the table could lead to further internal issues at Real, as happened with Barca last year.
"When you are behind in the table, you do not feel so good," he said. "Last year [with Barca] is an example - it takes its toll. Madrid have their problems now, but I should not get into that."
The Spain international has not joined up with La Roja this week as he is currently recovering from the ankle injury that has seen him miss Barca's recent games, including the Clasico.
His central defensive partner, Carles Puyol, also sat out that match after dislocating his elbow a few days previously at Benfica in an incident Pique believes exemplifies the positive and negative elements of his friend's attitude.
"It makes you angry watching it," Pique said. "He never learns. He is not 24 years old any more. And in the 80th minute, 2-0 ahead, he jumps like that... But that is Puyi. If he did not do that he would not be Puyol."
With his first choices injured, Barca coach Tito Vilanova chose to play Adriano out of position at centre-half last weekend rather than risk young defenders Marc Bartra and Andreu Fontas. Pique compared Bartra's situation to his own spell in England between 2004 and 2008, when he struggled to break into the Manchester United first-team.
"[Bartra] is at the age where he should have already played, but centre-back is a difficult position," Pique said. "The same thing happened to me in Manchester. Bartra and Fontas are very good centre-halves. They play in the Barca style, bring the ball out well from the back, but they must have patience."
Pique, who should now be fit for his club's next game at Deportivo la Coruna on October 20, said his experience told him this season's title race was far from over despite Barca's lead.
"In my first year [back at Barcelona - 2008-09], we were 12 points ahead of Madrid," he said. "Then we had to go to the Bernabeu to win because if we lost Madrid would have been only one point behind. This Madrid are much better than that Madrid. La Liga is not won. That year we lost two games in a row, and six points were gone."