Nothing has come easy for Xavi and Barcelona this season, and to start the new year the challenges continued.
Just as La Liga wanted it, the season stops for no one.
No choice but to get on with it and find a way to get a result. Something this Barcelona team hasn’t always been good at.
The heroes in this one were two players in desperate need of the new beginnings that a new year can bring.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Luuk de Jong stepped up and seized a much-needed victory, and with it a confidence boost they can hopefully ride as the calendar changes.
Luuk has been a fish out of water in a Blaugrana shirt, but in a game that depended more on fight than the standard Barca tactics, he came ready to do his part by playing to his strengths.
The giant Dutchman was an aerial threat throughout the first half, and finally showed what a resource he can be in the box when given good service. Thanks to Oscar Mingueza, he got two golden opportunities and didn’t disappoint.
De Jong may not be in Barcelona for long, but fans will be grateful for the crucial contribution he made in this game.
MATS was even in more need of a moment to show off his brilliance.
The second half was a grind, with Mallorca growing in confidence, determined to knock down the door and take advantage of a weakened Barcelona team.
A goalkeeper earns his stripes in that one moment when the game is on the line, and a save is required to ensure victory.
In stoppage time, Ter Stegen did just that.
After another marking breakdown from his defenders, the German found himself facing an attacker one on one and at point-blank range, but didn’t flinch.
With the chance to save the day, and in a position where no one would blame him for being beaten, MATS was his vintage self and a made world-class save.
It wasn’t pretty for Barcelona, but it was a team win, and it was earned.
A display of mental strength, and a willingness to suffer for a result, that has been uncharacteristic down the stretch of games.
And no one appreciates that more than the defenders, as Eric Garcia highlighted in a post match interview.
Give credit to the players like Ronald Araujo who keep making things work out of position.
Let’s be grateful for the best academy system in the world, and the fearlessness of these teenagers who keep rising to the occasion on a moment’s notice.
Ferran Jutgla, who played on the left side for the first time on the first team, keeps showing his value with hard work and movement off the ball.
Ilias wasn’t spectacular, but he was involved from the first whistle, making sure he found a way to contribute.
Last of all, to start this new year, I continue to be grateful that Xavi is the manager.
It would be impossible to get through all this adversity without a positive leader who refuses to make excuses for this players.
Next man up.
One game at a time.
The mission is always clear, and that’s to win no matter what.
Barcelona is now in fifth place with an opportunity to build momentum against bottom of the table teams in January.
Time to start this things off right, and stay with the theme of having a winning mentality.
Whatever it takes. All hands on deck.
With league leaders faltering, there’s no better time than now to start climbing the table.
Let’s hope that 2022 is the year that a new Barcelona emerges .