This season has been full of surprises for Barcelona.
The good kind like the emergence of Lamine Yamal and Fermin Lopez. Both of whom had a chance to play hero against Athletic Club.
But instead, it came from a face that was hard to register, and in the blink of an eye.
I think I had just gotten up to refill my coffee when Marc Guiu was introduced into the game, and subsequently, the public imagination.
Faster than the fans at the Olympic Stadium could process who this number 38 was, the 17-year-old debutant shot through the backline, and with adrenaline pumping, and no time to think, buried the goal of the season.
In the moment, the shock of the goal made it hard to appreciate its significance, which puts Barcelona just a point behind Real Madrid with the Clasico up next.
But we should appreciate what we’re seeing.
Who knows if this is just 15 minutes of fame for Marc Guiu, or if he’ll have an important part to play with Barcelona in the future?
Let’s give praise to the young man, who for all intents and purposes could still be called a boy, and have fun imagining what it must feel like to be him right now, living the dream.
But let’s not forget to give credit to the unsung heroes.
This was a tactical battle against Ernesto Valverde’s well-drilled team. Not exciting for the neutral, but intriguing given the tension that was building in every minute.
The game could have gone either way with Barca and Athletic Club each having their chances. Perhaps prior to the goal, you could say that Valverde had the advantage, keeping things tidy and neutralizing any serious threats, while putting the Barca backline under pressure in key moments.
From the perspective of Barcelona, there were a lot of tired legs.
Most of the team had just gotten back from international duty, which was preceded by an intense start to the season, with few days off, given the injury list that has been continuously growing.
This is not a Barcelona team that’s bringing the entertainment. But it is a team that looks organized and united, prepped and motivated to get the job done on any given day.
So for a moment, let’s shout out Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix, who came into the team, and have worked hard game in and out, even on the days when the creative spark wasn’t there to produce something special.
In the same category, you can throw in Ilkay Gundogan, who arrived in Barcelona, and has done what’s been asked of him, even though this season has hardly given him the ability to express himself, the way he was able to at Manchester City, and even recently with the German national team.
Alejandro Balde, who has been criticized for taking a step back in his ability to deliver a final ball, but still shows up every game, with tired legs, ready to give all that he has.
That’s the story of Barcelona this season.
United and mission oriented. Keeping the season alive at the moment, and finding a way to get the job done, even when it doesn’t look pretty.
Against Shakhtar Donetsk, they will need the same formula, with the roster once again thin.
But they do have a new addition in Marc Guiu, who could provide some help off the bench.
The secret sauce, however, will be Barca’s continued unity. Not obsessed about playing perfect football, but rather winning football.
Realistically, this can’t last forever.
Against Real Madrid, it will be hard to get the result without one or two key players returning from injury.
More important than one game, the success of the season, with many games to go, will depend on the ability to get and stay healthy, and perhaps reinforce a bit in the transfer window.
Xavi and the players, for their part, have been commendable given the circumstances.
The growth of the character of this team, and its effect on the club overall, has been refreshing to see.
They’re making their own luck at the moment. And hopefully soon, when the missing players return, they can start to build something even greater.