Barcelona were far from their best in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals against Real Sociedad. They still managed to score a 2-0 victory, however, courtesy of Sergio Busquets and an own goal from Zubikarai to carry a clear edge into the second leg.
The Blaugrana are coming off a convincing 4-1 triumph over Sevilla. Lionel Messi emerged from his open-play slump with two goals to lead the charge. It was exactly the type of performance Barca needed after a brief drop in overall form.
Things haven't been going as well for Sociedad. They haven't scored a single goal over their past three matches, losing two and drawing one by a combined score of 6-0. The Erreala will need a drastic increase in their level of play in the second leg.
Let's check out all of the important viewing information for the crucial clash. That's followed by a breakdown of the top storyline and a match prediction.
Which La Liga side will reach the Copa del Rey final?
Where: Anoeta in San Sebastian, Spain
When: Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 4 p.m. ET (9 p.m. GMT)
Watch: beIN Sports and Sky Sports 2
Live Stream: beIN Sports Play
Match Odds (to Qualify, via Oddschecker)
Real Sociedad: +1,100
Top Storyline: Can Sociedad Mount a Semifinal Comeback in the Second Leg?
Sociedad enter the second match with a glimmer of hope. They were competitive with Barcelona for a vast majority of the first leg and are only down by two because of a freak own goal. Barca's lackluster play was a contributing factor, but the Erreala also deserve some credit for keeping it close.
Barcelona understand that, as well. After the match, The Guardian passed along comments from star midfielder Xavi. He talked about the team's failed efforts to add a couple more goals to put the semifinal completely out of reach:
We wanted to score more goals given that we had an extra man and we could have scored more but it's a very favourable result. We haven't conceded a goal at home and that's also a point very much in our favour.
Since Barca couldn't add more to their edge, Sociedad return home with a chance. Heading into the first leg, they couldn't have asked for more than that. So the Blaugrana have to approach the match with caution, especially early on, to prevent a serious comeback bid.
The effort starts with stability in the midfield. Cesc Fabregas was key in the first match. He played really well in the middle of the pitch to make sure Barcelona maintained control even though they weren't at their best in the final third. It earned him WhoScored's Man of the Match honors:
Barcelona will need more of the same from Fabregas and his midfield mates to survive that initial surge from Sociedad. If they can do that, the Erreala will have no choice but to start playing a more aggressive line, which will open up chances for Messi and Co.
Ultimately, it's a match that should play right into Barca's hands thanks to their ability to control pace and possession. But if they make even one mistake in the early going and let Sociedad back into the semifinal, tense moments will await.
Barcelona are in the middle of a very busy stretch. In turn, they will probably employ a conservative strategy in this match in order to advance without overextending themselves. There's no reason to use energy pushing for extra goals once a spot in the final is secure.
Knowing that, it probably won't be the most thrilling match of the tournament. Instead, expect a very workmanlike performance from Barca in order to eliminate any Sociedad comeback hopes. They should advance with a narrow win in the second leg.
Barcelona 2, Real Sociedad 1