Gerardo Martino thanked those Barcelona fans who braved the elements to attend as the club progressed through Wednesday’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg against Levante.
With Barca already 4-0 up from the first leg, torrential rain falling in the city, the game being shown live on TV and kicking off at 10pm local time, only 25,551 supporters were present at the 99,000-capacity Camp Nou.
After his side had bounced back from going behind early to win 5-1, and 9-1 on aggregate, Martino told his postmatch news conference that he appreciated the support of those who had turned up.
“The 25,000 people that came are brave,” Martino said. “I can only thank them because of how bad the weather was and the late kick-off time.”
Barca are now likely to meet Real Sociedad over two legs in the last four, with the Basque side set to receive a bye as players and coaches at opponents Racing Santander have said they will strike due to unpaid wages.
“I do not know what will happen tomorrow, if the game will be played or not,” Martino said. “But if in the end our rivals are Real Sociedad, we are going to have a very tough semifinal. We have three matches between us and the trophy -- if we get to the final we have to win it.”
Racing’s squad announced earlier this week that they would not play Thursday evening’s second leg against La Real unless the club’s president and board all step down first. The ultimatum was presented as players and staff have not been paid since autumn, with president Angel “Harry” Lavin breaking public promises to share some of the money generated by the third-tier side’s cup run.
The Cantabrian club’s coach Paco Fernandez said on Wednesday that he and the players had no intention of backing down.
“We are all the same, there is nothing new,” Fernandez said. “The statement was very clear. We are not moving.”
Racing have been relegated twice in the last two seasons, and the club are currently in danger of going out of business completely with debts of over 50 million euros.
But Lavin, who along with former president Francisco Pernia and supposed “Indian entrepreneur” Ali Syed face legal charges relating to their running of the club, said he currently has no intention of giving in to the ultimatum.
“The players must respect their positions,” the businessman told El Pais. “Tomorrow I do not know what will happen, today I am going to sleep as Racing president. We will try and find an exit agreed by all parties so the game can be played. My intention is to represent Racing in the directors' box, but you cannot predict what might happen in the coming hours.”