Messi and Suarez absence no excuse for Barca, says Pique

BARCELONA: Gerard Pique was fiercely critical of Barcelona after his side were held to a 0-0 home La Liga draw by Malaga on Saturday, saying the absence of strikers Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez was no excuse for not winning.

The champions were also without captain Andres Iniesta and defender Samuel Umtiti through injury while coach Luis Enrique rested midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

Nine places below Barca and with 10 fewer points, Malaga defended deep and even frustrated Barca with 10 men after Diego Llorente was sent off in the 68th minute. The visitors also had midfielder Juankar dismissed in injury time.

"We have players who are worth a lot of money and our wage bill is huge compared to Malaga's. We're Barca and it's no excuse that we had players missing," defender Pique said.

"It's happened to us in other games, we can't afford to leave it until late in the game. When the games drag on and we're drawing, everything becomes harder."

Barca have surrendered seven points in six home games this season.

"It's worrying how many points we've dropped at home. No-one wanted to draw against a team who in theory we should have beaten," added Pique.

Barca have now dropped points in three of their last four games immediately after an international break but Luis Enrique said he could not fault his players.

"We have lost games without Messi and Suarez and lost games when they have played. Squads win titles," he said.

"There was only one team in the game and I can only praise my players. When you play against a team that only sits back and defends it's always difficult. Now we have to improve and pick ourselves up.

"When your team does everything to try and win the game you have to look for constructive criticism. I liked our performance, we were the much better team, but if you don't score you don't deserve to win the game."