Ernesto Valverde admits that he had taken Gerard Pique off during Barcelona’s 2-0 win at Valencia due to an injury concern as the defender “felt a strain coming on.”
Pique had been an injury doubt going into Thursday’s game and lasted 83 minutes before Yerry Mina replacing him for his Barca debut although the Catalans reached yet another Copa del Rey Final.
“Pique? He felt a strain coming on and we decided that the best thing was to take him off,” Valverde said after the game in which January signing Philippe Coutinho scored the only goal in the game against Valencia to help the Catalan team progress to the final stage of the domestic Cup. The club have won the competition three times in a row since losing to Real Madrid in the 2014 final.
“Barca are used to reaching Finals and playing in them, me not so much,” Valverde added. “I’m very happy, given it’ll be the fifth consecutive Final for these players, something that’s very difficult to repeat and repeat.”
“We thought it’d be very difficult and it was, but we’re going home with tickets to the Final in our pockets. We thought they’d give us the ball and they did. They wanted to win the ball back from us and hit us on the break”
“We were able to find players in space and take advantage. We tried it with Messi, Iniesta, etc… We had to try and it went well. We won so we’d reach the Final. We found it difficult against Celta and Espanyol and now we have against Valencia. We had a busy January.
Barca, who also look to be runaway winners of La Liga this season, will play Sevilla in the final after the sixth placed team in La Liga reached their second Copa del Rey final in three seasons with a 3-1 aggregate win over La Liga rivals Leganes.
They will host their next opponents, Girona in the Spanish top-flight on Sunday, while Barca face mid-table club Getafe CF.