FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique remains confident and optimistic despite suffering a fifth consecutive loss against bitter rivals Real Madrid. The first "El Clasico" of the year took place on Wednesday, in the semi-finals of the Supercopa de Espana. Real Madrid advanced to the final with a 3-2 victory after extra time.

It was a dramatic match that ended 2-2 after regulation time, with Barcelona on the backfoot throughout the match. In extra time, Fede Valverde scored the winning goal for Los Blancos, and the Blaugrana were no longer able to find a reply, Despite this, "we competed really well," said Pique after the match.

"In the end, we haven't made the final. It's not the result we hoped for and it's a shame, because losing against Real Madrid always hurts, but I think we're closer to winning. We're competing and now we just need that next step to start winning," he added, as quoted by Sport.

Indeed, the loss must have hurt the squad, and Pique himself admitted just before the encounter that they were still hurting from the 2-1 loss in the La Liga "El Clasico" which took place last October.

Nevertheless, like manager Xavi Hernandez, Pique is of the belief that Barcelona deserved to win on Wednesday. "The only 'but' is that we have not won. We played really well. We took the game on and took risks.," he said before downplaying Real Madrid's goals which manager Carlo Ancelotti described as "spectacular." Pique said, "at the end of the day, they've won the semifinal on a counter when we weren't able to get back and they got a lot of players forward."

Despite getting knocked out of the Supercopa de Espana and trailing Real Madrid by 17 points in La Liga, Pique is under the impression that the club is closer to fighting for titles than it may seem. "I'm really proud of the team. Playing like this we're going to start winning and compete for trophies."

He and Xavi agree that they can leave Saudi Arabia with their heads held high after what they see as a strong performance against the most in-form team in the league at the moment. "After equalising and going to extra time, playing with three at the back, going man to man against quality players like Vinicius and Benzema, to compete as we have done against Madrid, who are having a great season, means we leave with out heads up," he said.

Pique fully believes that they are on course to getting back to winning ways, and there is no better way to look at it. Like Xavi, he is happy to be getting some players back from injury like goalscorer Ansu Fati as well as several others who have just recovered from Covid-19.

Gerard Pique
Gerard Pique AFP / Josep LAGO