CORDOBA, Spain (Reuters) - Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong said he is thriving in his new advanced role for the team as he set his sights on his first trophy with the club ahead of Wednesday's Spanish Super Cup semi-final against Real Sociedad.
The Dutchman was one of the most coveted midfielders in world football after two superb seasons with Ajax Amsterdam but he made a disappointing start to his career with Barca after a 75 million euro ($91 million) move in 2019.
He has hit his stride with the Catalans since coach Ronald Koeman asked him to play in a more advanced role. He has scored two goals while providing two assists in his last eight games for Barca, who are also unbeaten in that period.
"In the last few games I've been playing in a different position, I'm a playing a little more forward than before and the coach is asking me to do more in attack and I feel much more comfortable now," De Jong told a news conference.
"I feel very good right now and the team is improving a lot, we've won our first three games of the year. We are also playing with more fluidity.
"There were a lot of changes over the summer and we had a difficult start because of that, and the fact we barely had a pre-season. We have always been united, but since the new year began we have been playing a lot better."
If Barca beat Sociedad, they will play the winner of Thursday's semi-final between Athletic Bilbao and holders Real Madrid in Sunday's final.
Last year's Super Cup was held in Saudi Arabia but the tournament is being played in empty stadiums in southern Spain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coach Koeman hopes his side can build on their impressive victories over and Athletic Bilbao and Granada when they face Sociedad, and pledged to play his strongest starting 11.
"This competition is important because Barca are used to fighting for important competitions," he said.
"We have a mentality where we want to win any game so we'll try to play with the best team possible to make it to the final."
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(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)