Marc Guiu the hero as La Masia delivers again
Teenage striker Marc Guiu was the hero for Barcelona against Athletic, scoring the winner straight after coming off the bench to cap a dream debut.
It was an incredible moment for Guiu, Barcelona and La Masia as yet another academy product made it into the first team and showed exactly what he can do. La Masia really is the gift that keeps on giving.
Marc Guiu: "It's a dream that sometimes you don't even dream of." pic.twitter.com/FZoEqVingc— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 23, 2023
Injuries had left Xavi short of options in attack but credit must also go to the coach for turning to Guiu and throwing him on when he was in need of a goal.
“Before going on, Xavi told me to just do the same as I do in the youth team. And to take any chances that came my way,” he said afterwards after doing exactly what his coach had told him.
Guiu also wrote his name into the history books at the same time - he is the youngest debutant ever to score for Barça, at the age of 17 years and 292 days - what a story.
Barca finally see the real Inigo Martinez
At the other end of the pitch Marc-Andre ter Stegen was once again crucial for Barcelona, while Inigo Martinez put in his best performance since leaving Athletic and moving to the Camp Nou on a free transfer.
Injury has disrupted Martinez’s start to life at Barcelona but he was dominant against his former side and put in an incredible block in the first half that prevented his team from going behind.
The defender finished with a pass accuracy rate of 95% (86 out of 91 passes), was not dispossessed all night, didn’t commit a single foul,and won all his ground duels and tackles.
Martinez admitted after the game it had been special to come up against his former employers, while Xavi was full of praise for the defender’s performance.
“I am happy for Iñigo, who also played a great game,” he said. “He’s going to be important. He’s a personal signing of mine and I have a lot of faith in him. He has character and leadership.”
It was certainly a good time for Martinez to stake a claim for a starting spot. Barca face a crunch week with games against Shakhtar and Real Madrid up next and will be without Jules Kounde because of injury for both encounters.
Barcelona can go above Madrid with Clasico win
Barcelona’s win over Athletic moves the team into third place in the table, just a point behind surprise leaders Girona and Real Madrid in second place.
All of which means that Xavi’s side can move above Los Blancos in the table with a victory in El Clasico next weekend.
Barcelona are certainly in a good place in the table despite having had to cope with a raft of injuries to key players in the early weeks of the season.
The clash against Athletic was always going to be a tough test, but Xavi has an impeccable record when it comes to facing the Basque side.
8 - Barcelona have not lost any of their last eight games against Athletic in @LaLigaEN (W7 D1), winning all four under Xavi Hernandez without conceding a single goal.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 22, 2023
It still remains to be seen if Robert Lewandowski, Pedri, Frenkie de Jong or Raphinha will be fit for the weekend, but Xavi will certainly be hoping for reinforcements for the visit of Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
If not then he may just have to trust in youth again. Fermin Lopez, Lamine Yamal and now Marc Guiu have all stepped up this season when called upon by Xavi and may be needed once again in the biggest game of them all.