Barcelona staged a late show to edge Athletic Bilbao 3-1 on Wednesday and book themselves a place in the Copa del Rey semi-finals.
Second half goals by Luis Suárez, Gerard Piqué and Neymar help Barça to a 5–2 aggregate victory, securing a sixth straight last four spot in the competition.
Neymar missed La Blaugrana’s 2-1 win at Malaga with a hamstring complaint, but he was given the go-ahead to partner Lionel Messi and Suarez in attack, with the Uruguayan also having sat out his two-game ban.
Elsewhere, Marc-Andre ter Stegen replaced Claudio Bravo in goal, Dani Alves, Jeremy Mathieu and Pique, who was suspended for the trip to La Rosaleda, came into the back four, while Sergi Roberto and Ivan Rakitic were preferred to Andres Iniesta and Arda, the latter of whom was cut from the squad.
Suárez returned to action after missing the last two Copa del Rey matches with a suspension that he picked up in the first leg of the last 16 versus Espanyol.
Athletic on the other hand supported top goals scorer Aritz Aduriz with Williams, rather than Iker Muniain, as they attempted to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, and they took a leaf straight out of Malaga’s book, having flown out of the traps to stifle the hosts’ domineering style.
It was the third meeting in a 10-day span between the two sides — one in La Liga two in the Cup — with FC Barcelona winning all three games by a combined score of 11–2.
The visitors went up early when Iñaki Williams got behind the Barcelona defence in the 12th minute and slotted past Marc-André ter Stegen for a 1–0 lead, thus drawing Athletic level at 2–2 on aggregate.
But with Athletic knowing they had to score at least twice to avoid elimination, after Williams’ goal, the Basques pressed even harder.
With Barça down 1–0 early and every last attendee at Camp Nou knowing full well that a 2–0 Athletic Club victory would eliminate FCB from the tournament, the atmosphere inside the stadium had all the intensity of a final, setting the Camp Nou on edge until Luis Suárez drew the Barcelona level in the 53rd.
Gerard Piqué’s 81st minute goal made sure there would be no extra time and Neymar capped off the scoring with a late blast.
The victory sees FC Barcelona extends the Catalans’ unbeaten streak to 25 games across all competitions, including five straight wins at Camp Nou.