Barcelona make hard work of Intercity
Barcelona made it past Intercity but they needed extra-time to finally squeeze past their opponents who did themselves proud and will not forget this game in a hurry.
Xavi named a fairly strong side for this one and saw his team score after just four minutes. It looked set to be a comfortable evening for the visitors but was anything but.
HIGHLIGHTS | A wild night in Alicante— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 5, 2023
Intercity 3–4 Barça
⚽️ Ansu Fati pic.twitter.com/ZP2nDumlCA
This was a chaotic showing that showed up issues all over the pitch. Xavi saw his defenders commit costly errors, his captain struggled, and his forwards failed to kill Intercity off.
Barca aren’t the only team to make hard work of the Copa del Rey against lower-ranked opposition but this was hardly the best preparation for Sunday’s trip to the Wanda Metropolitano.
The good news is that Barca are through and players such as Raphinha, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu all scored much-needed goals but Xavi clearly has a lot of work to do.
Araujo back with a bang
One big positive from the game was the eagerly-anticipated return of Ronald Araujo.
The center-back needed just four minutes to thunder Barca into the lead, firing a powerful header past the goalkeeper after a fine corner in from Pablo Torre.
Yet that wasn’t his finest moment in the first half. That came midway through the opening 45 minutes when he raced back to deny Intercity an equaliser.
| Ronald Araújo vs Intercity.— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) January 4, 2023
- 60 Mins Played.
- 1 Goal.
- 1 Clearance Off The Line
- 65 Touches.
- 47/55 Passes. (85% Accuracy)
- 4/6 Long Balls.
- 3/5 Duels Won
- 1 Tackle
- 1 Blocked Shot
- 2 Clearances
- 3 Recoveries
A great return onto the pitch for the Uruguayan. pic.twitter.com/8MbIMPyoWD
The hosts hit Barca on the break with Kounde and Araujo leading the chase. Intercity’s Alvaro Pinan managed to round Inaki Pena and went for goal but Araujo blocked his effort on the slide and denied a certain goal.
“I’m happy to be back after a lot of hard work and suffering.I haven’t played for a long time and I wanted to get back as soon as possible,” he said afterwards. “It’s a shame that I couldn’t play at the World Cup, which was what I wanted the most, but now we have to think about Sunday and another final.”
Araujo only played an hour, and admitted after the match that was what had been agreed with Xavi, but it’s great to see him back in action.
Another boost for Pablo Torre
Araujo’s goal came from a superb delivery by Pablo Torre. The young midfielder hasn’t had a very smooth start to his Barcelona career but this was definitely another step in the right direction for Torre.
The midfielder’s delivery from set-pieces is definitely an asset that Xavi can make use of this season, but the former Racing man also offers much more than that.
1 - At 19 years and 276 days, Pablo Torre is the youngest player to be involved in a goal in each of his first two starts for Barcelona in all competitions (one goal and one assist) since at least 2013/14. Future. pic.twitter.com/b3aRy87rum— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 4, 2023
His vision and touch were on show and he also displayed some great footwork, particularly with a lovely turn and pass on the edge of the box that ended in a shot for Dembele.
There’s been talk that Barca have considered sending Torre out on loan in January. The midfielder doesn’t seem keen on leaving and certainly took his chance on Wednesday.
Lift-off for Ansu Fati?
Barcelona’s winning goal came from the right boot of Ansu Fati as the striker scored his first goal since October and his fourth of the season so far.
Fati may be back from injury but he’s still having a bit of a tricky time at Barcelona and wasn’t in the starting XI here.
Xavi called for the attacker late in the game and was rewarded when he popped up with the winner that will take Barcelona into the last 16.
Barcelona will now be hoping this can be a turning point for Fati. The striker has seemed lacking in confidence and belief all season but will be needed by the Catalans if they are to pick up silverware this season.
Fati’s goal means he will also be in contention to start against Atletico Madrid on Sunday. Lewandowski is suspended for the game which means Xavi will have to rethink his forward line at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Oriol Soldevila steals the show
Intercity fielded a whole host of ex-Barca youngsters in their team and it was no surprise that a former La Masia player stole the show against the Catalan giants.
Oriol Soldevila was the hero for the hosts, netting a hat-trick for his team, on a night he will surely never forget.
“It was a dream for me. I’ve been a Barca fan since I was born and you don’t even know what this means,” he said after the game. “With the first I was more than happy but with the three, even more so.”
The 21-year-old spent two years in Barca’s academy before heading to Birmingham City in 2020. Soldevila’s only appearances for the English side came for the Under-21s and he headed back to Spain to sign for Intercity last year.
Soldevila swapped shirts with Raphinha after the game but admitted the jersey he really wanted was the one belonging to his “best friend in the world of football” Arnau Tenas.