It certainly wasn’t easy but Barcelona managed to pull out a 1-0 over Athletic Bilbao ahead of an important week that includes El Clasico against Real Madrid.
A win that certainly has to feel just a little better for the Catalan faithful considering it was Marc Guiu, a 17-year-old academy product, that gave them the win.
With a number of starters out injured, and with the slew of games on the docket, Xavi Hernandez made do with what he had while at the same time resting some key players coming off of international duty.
Iñigo Martinez, who redeemed himself after a clunker against Mallorca, partnered Andreas Christensen in defense. Up top, João Félix, Ferran Torres and Fermin Lopez made up the attacking trio.
Out of the three, Felix had the best game of the bunch and was arguably Barcelona’s best player. He was the creative outlet in attack and had an opportunity to open the score in the first half only to see his shot strike the crossbar.
On the other end Marc-Andre ter Stegen had a couple of saves, keeping the game scoreless heading into the break.
Barcelona came out the better team in the second half, looking dangerous when they entered the Basque half. However, their finishing wasn’t up to task combined with Unai Simon’s blocks, kept the game nil-nil.
Lamine Yamal, who came on as substitute, had the next best chance as Felix made the run across the middle before laying the ball of to Yamal. The latter controlled the ball but saw his effort go wide of the mark, much to his dismay.
Getting late, Xavi decided to bring on Marcos Alonso and give Marc Guiu his first team debut.
It wouldn’t take long for Guiu to make his impact.
Only 23 seconds since entering the pitch, Guiu managed to get on the end of a nice pass from Felix in midfield. Unai Simon got a touch to Guiu’s shot but not enough as Guiu not only scored his first senior goal with his first touch but also gave Barcelona the lead and, ultimately, the win in the process.
With the win, Barcelona pulled within a point of Real Madrid, who Barcelona face in their next LaLiga match.
The result was important for a number of reasons. It meant that they gained ground on Madrid as well as keeping pace with Girona. Given the number of absences, the win kept them moving forward as they wait for some of them to return.
Xavi could get one or two of those players back in time for their next match, which is in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk. A win there would see them pick up nine points out of nine, putting them in line to qualify out of the group stage for the first time since the 2020/21 season.