La Liga: 5 Things to watch out for concerning Barcelona in the new season
The 2019/2020 La Liga season kicks off in a week's time and happenings at Barcelona will be high on the watch list.
The last two seasons have gone the same route; untouchable in the league despite being shaky, failing at the worst possible times in Europe and a continued over-reliance on Lionel Messi.
Culés will be anxiously looking at the first game against Athletic Bilbao for clues on what to expect. The consecutive defeats to AS Roma and Liverpool after commanding first-leg leads have put an inordinate amount of pressure on the manager, Ernesto Valverde.
The off-season has not seen much in terms of volume of arrivals and departures. The Blaugrana have spent €255m on new talent; Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, and Junior Firpo. The team has recouped about €146m in sales; Malcolm, Jasper Cillessen, Andre Gomes amongst others.
How the team will look, perform and face the challenges of the new season remains to be seen with Valverde well aware that he is living on borrowed time
Here is a look at some of the things to watch out for as far as Barcelona is concerned:
#5 The shape of the midfield
It goes without saying; Barcelona are stacked in the middle of the park in terms of names. Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal are the old heads in the midfield. The trio will be expected to play important roles in Barca's assault on all competitions.
Then, there are the young heads. De Jong, Arthur Melo, Carlos Alena, and Riqui Puig will be eager to stake their claims for a starting berth as well.
Based on Valverde's previous selections; Busquets is almost certain to start all the games he is fit for. The Spanish international who is one of the team's captains is the only truly defensive-minded player in the midfield.
However, he has slowed down in the last couple of seasons and was unable to stop the tide of high-press attacks by opposing teams last season (especially Liverpool at Anfield and Valencia in the Copa Del Rey final).
There was a lack of pace and thrust from midfield last season and is something that the manager will be eager to rectify this season. Rakitic is no longer as mobile as he used to be while Vidal was not trusted enough to show what he is capable of.
Valverde will need to pick the right blend of solidity, control, and thrust if Barca are to do awesome things in the new season.