Barcelona booked a place in the semi-finals of the 2022/23 Copa del Rey after securing a hard-fought 1-0 victory over a ten-man Real Sociedad outfit on Wednesday.
The Catalans were the better team in the first half but could not break open the deadlock against Imanol Alguacil’s side, who saw Brais Mendez get sent off for a dangerous tackle.
But early in the second period, Ousmane Dembele opened the scoring for the Blaugrana and they held on to their lead, even though Real Sociedad turned up the heat in the latter stages. Marc-Andre ter Stegen came up clutch again with two fine stops late on to ensure Barcelona won.
Having already won the Spanish Super Cup this season, Barça now took a step closer towards winning another trophy, having qualified for the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.
Manager Xavi Hernandez, who celebrated his 43rd birthday on Wednesday, spoke to the media after the match.
On Ousmane Dembele’s improvement: “Since we’ve been here, Dembele has improved a lot. I see the full-backs who play against him and they suffer. I believe in him a lot. I always think he can generate a lot for us. Today he played an extraordinary game
Dembele has been criticised and booed. We have changed him and he receives a standing ovation. I’m very happy for him!”
On failing to kill the game: “We lack aggression in front of goal. In the end, you win 1-0 and at the end, the opponents have that chance. We can’t give away these advantages.
“It’s a good game from us, but it looks like we score the first goal and that’s it. We have to go for the 2-0…”
On Dembele: “Dembele, in his position, is one of the best players in the world. I think what has changed in Dembele is that he now believes he is one of the best wingers in the world, something I already knew, now he is starting to believe it. He feels our confidence. I talk to him quite a lot. I’m glad because he’s a great guy.”
On the match: “We played a brilliant 60 minutes. I’m very satisfied with the game.”
On Pedri: “Pedri only has a bruise on his knee. He is fine. He’ll be available for Saturday’s match.”
On the season so far: “We are where we wanted to be at this time in January. Leaders in La Liga, we’re in the Copa del Rey semi-finals, we have won the Spanish Super Cup.”
On Sergio Busquets: “He’s at a great level… Very high level. He’s an extraordinary player. Having said that, we lose balls in transitions, which must be improved on.”
On the decision to bench Inaki Pena: “I thought that Ter Stegen had to play today, just as I thought Iñaki Peña had to play against Ceuta and Intercity. They know how it goes, they’re all in the team and I haven’t given them any further explanation.”
On what needs to improve: “Today it was difficult for us when they got into the low block, it’s hard for us to find those deep passes… We’re missing the last pass. I think that’s what we’re missing the most.”
On Robert Lewandowski: “Lewandowski works for the team and creates chances. I’m very happy with his work on the attack. Even if he didn’t score, he played a very complete game and we must also highlight him.”
On his tactical decision: “I thought that the best thing was to play with four midfielders again.”
On his staff: “I have the best staff in the world. Both the coaches, Óscar and Sergio, the analysts, the physical trainers, the nutritionists… The work that the staff does is sensational. The best thing that I have as a coach is my staff. I appreciate them very much.”
On Raphinha: “He’ll be very important for us. I have a lot of confidence in him.”