FC Barcelona: Pre-season Review And Season Preview
The almost invincible looking Barcelona team, that completed treble in 2009, were in a similar form the next year. However a few loses at important matches left them with only one trophy of those three. Though winning la liga is not a mean achievement, for their all-powerful squad it seemed a bit less. Now, with seven players in the first eleven of the world cup winning Spanish side, Barcelona start this season as strong as the previous two if not stronger.
With the world cup being held till 11th of July, the pre-season was cut short for most of the teams. And for the team having 8 players participating in the world cup finals, it was even shorter. As Guardiola rightly decided to rest the world champions, and most of the youth team players participated in the U-19 Euro Championship with Spain, the squad was cut down to almost third tier. Other than those who are obsessed with Barcelona, the pre-season friendlies were of no interest for the most. However, those who know Blaugranas well, for them it was the time to check which one from the prized youth system has grown enough to be counted among the next superstars. Last year around the same time, the name that came up was of a certain Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma who fulfilled the coach’s emergency need at the left wing when Henry went out of form and Iniesta injured and went on to create a record of scoring in all the six tournament he participated in. Finally he got the deserved call to the Spanish squad for the world cup and almost scored there too had it not been for his excitement or may be inexperience.
The Catalan side started their pre-season campaign against Norwegian side Valerenge IF. With limited number of first team players available Barcelona played with a new looking side. However, that didn’t prevent them from showing the brilliant football they are famous for. Starting with a great goal from Victor Sanchez, they went on to win the match 4-2, with Maxwell, Benja Martinez and Seydu Keita scoring the rest of the goals.
The trip to Korea was one of the most controversial things Barcelona had in recent times (may be excluding the Fabregas story). First Dani Alves confusing South Korea with North Korea and then the decision of Pep Guardiola to not to play Lionel Messi, who lacked match fitness. It seemed Barcelona would go back from Korea with some negative publicity. However, Messi played for 15 minutes and scored 2 goals to end the resistance of the K-League All Stars team. Ibrahimovic, Jonathan Soriano and Victor Sanchez also found the net in the 5-2 win.
The trip to China was the last one for this pre-season for the Blaugranas. The match against Guoan finished 3-0 in favour of the Catalan side with Sergi Roberto, Nolito and Ibrahimovic finding the net.
Looking at the pre-season performance of the team, it seems Jonathan Dos Santos is one of those players who are going to get a chance in the first team next season. The attacking players like Benja Martinez, Nolito or Jonathan Soriano showed that they can come out and fill up any vacancy at the attacking front whenever needed, especially in the Copa matches. Ibrahimovic was yet again found to be slow in his movements to cope up with the passing game of the team. However, in most of the matches he played little bit deep and that was not his favourite position. And he was not famous for being fast, he found out his scoring shoes and that’s good news for the team. However, some of the goals that they conceded increase the concern at the back. It seems the goalkeepers Pinto, Mino or Oier are not good enough even as a cover Valdes if he gets injured. Defence looked leaky again and if either of Puyol or Pique is unavailable for a match, the coach will have some trouble with his squad unless youngsters like Muniesa, Fontas, Sergi Gomez or Bartra come out excellently.
An over-all look at the squad gives a good impression about the team for the upcoming season. With new-signing David Villa expect to fit in well with the team it’s on Ibrahimovic to fight for his place in the team with Pedro and Bojan. Addition of Adriano Correira is what the team needed the most, a versatile player in the bench who can come up and play at more than one position when needed. And if the current speculation about Javier Mascherano comes out to be true, the trouble of depth in the midfield will be gone. The Argentine captain with his energy, speed, power and tackling and passing skills will be a great addition to the squad. With such a good first team and youngsters like Thiago, Jonathan Dos Santos, Oriol Romeu and Jeffren waiting to make the cut, offence will never be a problem for the Blaugranas. The only point of worry is the heart of the defence, with Marquez and Chygrinsky gone and makeshift defender Yaya Toure also not available, Guardiola has to hope that Puyol and Pique do not get injured throughout the season. Gabriel Milito, Abidal or the youngsters may be able to fill in when needed, but in the matches against Real Madrid or others big guns and the Champion’s League knock out stages will be difficult to handle
The first look at what these substitutes are able to do will be available tonight only when Barcelona travels to Sevilla for the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, where Guardiola decided to rest the Spanish national team players after their long journey to Mexico and back just to play for 15 or 30 minutes. It’s a matter of debate whether Del Bosque should have called the players involved in the Super Cup or the Champions league qualifiers for a friendly especially after the statement of FIFA President Sepp Blatter declaring it not necessary to send the first team for the national friendlies. However, for the Barcelona fans it is a chance to judge the youth players in a competitive match though with a bit of risk.