Barcelona’s quest for a top-four finish took a huge step forwards on Thursday as Xavi’s men saw off fellow European hopefuls Real Sociedad.

The Catalan side were on top in the first half and good value for their lead, which came through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s header, but they took their foot off the gas after half-time and had Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank for preserving their lead.

Barcelona were a little fortunate not to go behind early on. Some nervy play around the back saw Alexander Isak press Ter Stegen into a real dilemma, but his clearance hit the Swede and went narrowly wide.

Just a few minutes later, the visitors were celebrating as Aubameyang headed home from a few yards out. An excellent passing move led to Ousmane Dembele hitting the post, but Gavi recycled possession and found Ferran Torres, whose lobbed pass put it on a plate for Aubameyang.

Things got a bit scrappy after that and Barcelona’s next real chance wouldn’t come for another 20 minutes. It was Frenkie de Jong who came close, side-footing an effort from the edge of the box that wasn’t far away at all.

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