Ernesto Valverde: Busy schedule has Barcelona at disadvantage

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BARCELONA -- Ernesto Valverde wants Barcelona to overcome the disadvantage of having played on Thursday to win at Real Sociedad in La Liga for the first time since 2007.

Barca beat Celta Vigo 5-0 in midweek to progress to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, where they will play local rivals Espanyol over two legs this month.

Meanwhile, La Real, who were knocked out of the cup in an earlier round, had a free week to prepare for the visit of the league leaders.

It makes an already difficult task even more difficult, with Barca having failed to win in each of their last seven visits to Anoeta in the league, losing five of them.

"Not playing in midweek is an advantage for La Real," Valverde said in a news conference on Saturday. "It's the same story with our game against [Real] Betis, who we play in the league next weekend after our midweek game [against Espanyol in the cup].

"We never like these situations where there are short rests and games coming thick and fast. We would like more time. But of course, you prefer to be in the Copa del Rey than out of it."

Barca are nine points clear at the top of La Liga and 28 games unbeaten in all competitions, dating back to August's Super Cup loss to Real Madrid, but their recent record in San Sebastian is not as impressive.

They did manage to win there in the Copa del Rey last season, but it's been more than a decade since they left with three points from a league game.

"That's not something we've talked about too much but we know what's gone on in past matches there," Valverde added.

"Their coach [former Barca B boss Eusebio] knows us very well. Having been here before he knows how to hurt Barca and Anoeta is a tough, wet stadium to play at regardless.

"It is difficult for anyone to win there, not just us. But that's the past. We want to write the future and [Sunday's] match has not been played yet."

Barca have no new injury concerns going into the game, with Samuel Umtiti and Paco Alcacer -- both of whom are back in light training -- still absent.

Ousmane Dembele appeared to end the midweek win over Celta with a slight knock, but Valverde confirmed he expected the French international to be available to face La Real after training on Friday and Saturday.

The wait will go on to see new signings Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina, though. The former has a thigh problem, while the latter has only trained with his new teammates once having arrived from Brazil on Thursday.

Asked if there would be more signings in January -- or outgoings, with a number of players set to follow Arda Turan out the door -- Valverde said the club are open to any possibilities between now and the end of the month.

"We're going to see what happens between now and the final day of the transfer window," he said. "We have players here... and if someone leaves we will announce it, but I won't talk now about who might leave or who might come in."