Luckily for the Catalans, Sergio Busquets was once again the decongestant that allowed the visitors to breathe more easily.
The often unsung hero at Barca—yes, even now—the "snowplough" as former colleague Xavi Hernandez affectionately christened him, per Sid Lowe of the Guardian, swept all before him in a performance which was all about the artistry of the game.
Simple, elegant brush strokes that painted a beautiful picture right across the Ipurua Municipal Stadium.
Too often column inches are devoted to the spectacular trident of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez without paying due homage to the player with Swiss watch-like precision. The player who makes this Barca tick.
That the Uruguayan and Argentinian combined to see the "MSN" goal tally reach 100 for the season ensured that many of the headlines will again be exclusively theirs. Ditto Messi’s cheeky Panenka penalty.
A bumpy surface wasn’t conducive to the Blaugrana’s natural passing game, but Busquets consistently found space and time in the confines of one of the tiniest pitches in the league, enabling the Catalans to feel right at home.
It’s not a surprise that many other away teams often fail to come away with three points at this venue.
The passion of the home support is amplified in a stadium which holds just 5,500 people, the furthest of whom are just 20 rows back from the pitch. Ipurua is a throwback to halcyon days—one cannot fail to enjoy the spectacle when in such close proximity.
Luis Enrique’s side certainly felt the wrath of this little Basque side at the start until Munir El Haddadi’s opener settled the nerves.
It set Barca on the way to their 36th game unbeaten, leaving them just another eight to negotiate successfully in order to set the all-time European record ahead of Juventus, the current holders with 43 games without defeat.
Such a mark would be a fine reward for this team—and for Busquets.
Enrique was rightly delighted and noted in his post-match press conference, per Barcelona's official site:
Just the other day we played a spectacular game, especially when we went back and analysed it, and today I think we were even better.
We were very solid against a very tough team. We overcame their pressure every time they applied it thanks to how we were able to circulate the ball and our positioning.
It was a complete game.
In the end it was a routine victory for the away side, and Eibar must be concerned at their own form now.
Eight defeats from the last nine games is beginning to look like a mirror image of what happened to this likeable Basque club in 2014/15.
On that occasion they were only saved from relegation thanks to Elche’s financial mis-management. This season their accumulation of points is likely to see them home with games to spare, but such Jekyll-and-Hyde characteristics are unlikely to please the locals.
Not that Busquets et al will concern themselves with the same. They’re more concerned with making history of a different kind. And doing it while being true to themselves.
Like the winding, beautiful curves of the Guggenheim Museum a short train ride away in Bilbao, Barca are all about the aesthetic as well as the purpose.
But without the genius of artisan Busquets, they are the unfinished masterpiece. The symphony without its conductor.
The term "water carrier" would appear to be one most often used to describe the general role that Busquets undertakes, but he does more than just carry water. A lot more.
It’s a description that almost appears to undermine how important he remains in the fabric of this most successful of football teams.
To understand what the midfielder brings to the party is to understand football. Period.
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