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Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned

Jason PettigroveContributor IFebruary 12, 2014

Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned

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    Lionel Messi, and Barcelona, were much more positive than their hosts on the night.
    Lionel Messi, and Barcelona, were much more positive than their hosts on the night.David Ramos/Getty Images

    and through to their fourth Copa del Rey final in the past six years.

    Real Madrid would be lying in wait for the winners, the carrot of an El Clasico final more than enough motivation for the Catalans.

    However, Anoeta hasn't been the happiest of hunting grounds for the visitors, Barca not having won there since May 2007.

    Let's take a look at six things we learned from the 1-1 match.

Arrasate Got It Completely Wrong

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    Jagoba Arrasate's expression tells the story.
    Jagoba Arrasate's expression tells the story.David Ramos/Getty Images

    We saw from the very first whistle how Real Sociedad manager Jagoba Arrasate had set his stall out.

    And to be honest, it was a carbon copy of his tactics from the first leg. Two tight banks of four and a defensive look to the side.

    Certainly not anywhere near positive enough to take the game to Barcelona.

    Even before Lionel Messi had in theory put the tie beyond the home side, the urgency came from the visitors.

    Once Messi had scored, the Sociedad players retreated even further into their shells, and with a place in the Final at stake, you have to say that Arrasate got it completely wrong.

Give Jose Manuel Pinto a New Deal

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    Jose Manuel Pinto rarely lets anyone down.
    Jose Manuel Pinto rarely lets anyone down.Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    There can't be too many goalkeepers in world football who are happy to play second fiddle. In Jose Manuel Pinto, Barca have just that. 

    Ever since the 38-year-old joined the club in 2008, the affable Spaniard was well aware that he would be in goal for Copa del Rey matches only, or unless Victor Valdes was injured.

    Some six years later, and with less than 40 appearances for the Blaugrana, Jose Manuel Pinto is still to let anyone down.

    His professionalism is legendary, his concentration on the pitch from the very top drawer. And again Wednesday night, he showed his worth to the side.

    More than once he produced a save of real quality, and despite being underused for much of the game, he was always alert to the irregular danger posed by the Sociedad attack.

    It's a no-brainer to offer him an extension on his current contract.

Majestic Messi

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    Lionel Messi's goal was a typical strike.
    Lionel Messi's goal was a typical strike.David Ramos/Getty Images

    For the first 25 minutes, Lionel Messi was kept relatively quiet in the Anoeta.

    Yet, when he picked up the loose ball in the centre circle on 27, you knew there would only be one outcome.

    Despite the close attention of five Sociedad players, Messi was the most positive, and his driving run through the heart of the covering players gave him a split second to dispatch a venomous shot which was too hot for the keeper to hold.

    Classic Messi!

Positive Picks from Tata

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    Tata Martino was right to pick a strong side Wednesday night.
    Tata Martino was right to pick a strong side Wednesday night.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    He's been criticised for his rotation policy often enough this season, but Tata Martino got it spot-on Wednesday night.

    A Copa del Rey semi-final second leg that, unlike Real Madrid's expected passage, still needed to be won, required a strong team selection.

    Some supporters might have argued that the likes of Xavi Hernandez should've been rested, yet this was not a game to be tinkering.

    The biggest games need the big players, and Tata was vindicated before the half-hour mark. 

Did Sociedad Make Barca Look Good?

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    Barca played well but did Sociedad's reticence make it easier for them to look good?
    Barca played well but did Sociedad's reticence make it easier for them to look good?David Ramos/Getty Images

    Barcelona were near to their best Wednesday night, but were they allowed to play by a disappointing Real Sociedad?

    The familiar high-pressing game was back from the first whistle, throughout the side. 

    Dani Alves in particular displayed more urgency than usual, and his raiding was also allied to some first-class defending, which kept the home side at bay until Antoine Griezmann's fantastic 86th-minute strike.

    Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez ran the midfield areas but were rarely troubled by Sociedad's lacklustre work ethic.

    Similarly, Messi and Pedro were a thorn in the home side's defence all night, but the home defence sat back for long periods, inviting pressure.

    Over 1,000 passes in the match tells its own story, but will we see that same Barca in the final?

Cesc Fabregas: Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of None

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    Cesc Fabregas worked hard but appeared to have no defined role.
    Cesc Fabregas worked hard but appeared to have no defined role.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    When the team sheet was read out, eyebrows may have been raised that Cesc Fabregas had replaced the in-form Alexis Sanchez on the wing.

    As the players set up before the kick-off, Fabregas reverted to the left side, Pedro Rodriguez in Sanchez's familiar right-hand berth.

    So, why did we barely see Cesc there?

    He was often the deepest player in a midfield diamond, noticeably invading space being patrolled by Hernandez and constantly getting in the way.

    A false nine was not part of the game plan, but he was found there on more than one occasion.

    Is he trying to prove to Martino that he is the man for all seasons? That he can get a permanent residency simply by mastering (or not) the various positions within the side.

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