Even if Barcelona are no longer a challenger for the LaLiga Santander title, they do still want to ensure they finish inside the top four and know, Gerard Pique in particular, that a second-place finish will earn them a ticket to next year’s Supercopa de Espana.

By defeating Real Sociedad 1-0 on Thursday night, Barcelona have taken a big step towards the runners-up spot, as they are level on points with Sevilla but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

It was a tough game for Xavi’s side in San Sebastian in a packed Reale Arena, much more difficult than when they won 6-1 in an empty stadium there last year.

Barcelona started well, though, and took an 11th-minute lead. The goal came when Ousmane Dembele struck an effort off the post, only for Gavi to show more desire and speed than anyone else to get on the rebound, recycling the ball for Ferran Torres to tee up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the finish.

Real Sociedad got better as the game went on, though, and both their Alexanders had excellent chances to equalise, as Isak wasted a one-on-one opportunity just before the break and Sorloth failed to connect properly at the far post at the start of the second half.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen was kept busy, collecting many crosses and making a few routine saves. But, the German also had to make one top-class parry, diverting a Sorloth shot wide with his leg just before the hour mark.

Both Gerard Pique and Ronaldo Araujo had to go off with physical issues in the second half, so Barcelona finished the game with Eric Garcia and Clement Lenglet at centre-back. Even if it wasn’t always pretty, the backup central defensive pair did a good job and cleared away cross after cross, as La Real failed to find a breakthrough despite having 10 minutes of stoppage time.

Courtesy of Aubameyang’s early goal and one of their best defensive shifts of the year, Barcelona held on for the 1-0 win and three points.

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Courtesy: MARCA

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