The competition is more important than usual to Barcelona given they’re off the pace in La Liga and unconvincing in the Champions League. If Ronald Koeman wants to keep his job beyond this campaign, he’ll need something to show for it.
The Blaugrana entered the Copa in the previous round due to their Supercopa de Espana commitments, beating ten-man and third-tier UE Cornella 2-0 after extra-time. Rayo, by comparison, beat Teruel 3-2 in the first round, Haro 3-1 in the second and Primera side Elche 2-0 in the last 32.
Barcelona dominated the opening stages, hitting the woodwork three times in the opening hour. It was Rayo, however, who drew first blood, Francisco Garcia scoring in the 62nd minute to put them into a shock lead.
It lasted just seven minutes, however, before Lionel Messi, returning after serving suspension following his red card in the Supercopa final, scored after being teed up by Antoine Griezmann to get Barcelona back on level terms.
Frenkie de Jong, in super form thanks to his more advanced position, put his team in the lead ten minutes later, finishing off an excellent move involving Messi and Jordi Alba to make it 2-1 and put the Catalan giants into the final eight.