A Barcelona side nearly at full strength encountered a tough challenge in their Copa del Rey victory over third-tier Unionistas de Salamanca on Thursday night, overcoming a goal deficit.
Under increasing scrutiny following the comprehensive Supercopa de Espana defeat to Real Madrid last weekend, Xavi chose to exclude Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan from the starting lineup, instead providing opportunities to Marc Guiu and Fermin Lopez.
While the remainder of the team was arguably as formidable as possible, Unionistas took the lead around the half-hour mark through Alvaro Gomez. The winger scored high past Inak Pena, who continued to stand in for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, at the near post.
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Barcelona leveled the score before halftime when Ferran Torres found the equalizer just before the break. Pau Cubarsi replaced Andreas Christensen for the second half, but the illustrious away side struggled to create chances to take the lead. Xavi opted for a triple substitution at the hour mark, introducing Lewandowski, Gundogan, and Pedri.
The added firepower paid off, with two starting players securing the goals for a 3-1 victory. Both goals came from defenders – Jules Kounde unleashed a long-range shot to put Barcelona ahead, and shortly after, Alejandro Balde smashed the ball into the net from a tight angle, providing some breathing room and relief.
Late opportunities for both teams, including a notable save by Pena in the 90th minute, did not alter the scoreline, and Barcelona advanced to the quarter-finals once again.