Why Barcelona will win the UEFA Champions League this season
Barcelona has not enjoyed international success for the past three years. With only one of the last seven titles, the Catalan team has been remarkably silent regarding winning the UEFA Champions League. Given the fact that Neymar Jr's departure had a toll on them the very last season, they seem to be getting their composure back at its place. To illustrate, a power-packed midfield with the inclusion of Phillipe Coutinho, and an attack that consists of Luis Suarez and of course, Lionel Messi, with inputs given from Ousmane Dembele is one of the reasons why the Spaniards are on the road to redemption.
Given that their recent performances in the league and the pre-season friendlies have been entirely up to the mark. Lionel Messi-led side is looking forward to not just reaching the knockout stages, but also winning the entire competition without any hurdles.
Of course, the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Manchester City are going to be an issue for Ernesto Valverde's side. The Spanish manager is now making sure that all his team's flaws get fixed before they can get worse.
With a powerful defense, a solid midfield with mixed ages and world-class attacking prowess, Barca's chances of winning the competition are extremely high. With everything at stake, can the Catalan powerhouse bring back former glories?
With Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets being the 'core' of the midfield, Arturo Vidal is often seen as being the attacking third in the natural 4-1-2-3 formation that Barcelona has played over the years. However, in the very recent games, switching to a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 or the space-filling 4-4-2 has been one of Valverde's trump cards. Changing the formations in the middle of the matches isn't usually a wise move, but in the dictionary of the former Spanish international, it can do marvels.
With the inclusion of Phillipe Coutinho, the Barcelona side has improved a lot regarding developing inter-plays, creating multiple opportunities for Suarez and Messi, and making the best use of the left flank.
Jordi Alba's runs all over the left usually provide an additional attacking option, as we saw against Huesca; Sergi Roberto, on the other hand, is now sticking to a more defensive, yet aggressive role. The more he is allowed to dig deep into the midfield, the more chances Barcelona can actually create.
Messi, the natural number 10 or a false nine occasionally, is seen creating more chances than taking them. That is a sign that Valverde wants him outside of the box so that the defense does not take a chance and cover the Argentinian, and as a small scope of opportunity is visualized, he will capitalize.
Defensively, they have been a 'wall' in the central region. With Sergio Busquets being the holding midfielder, along with Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti, who are the natural center-backs, the trio has denied waves after waves of the opposition counter-attacks. Umtiti, who is usually the aggressor, is allowed to freely flow around the spaces, making runs and taking crucial headers inside the box from set-pieces.
Although the Argentine International, as of now, has seen much better days, as for the first time in over a decade, he wasn't picked for the FIFA player of the year award. Of course, missing out on the FIFA World Cup opportunity, which many say was his last chance over the biggest prize in football; Messi, this season, is all about redemption.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is now looking forward to considerably win the UCL, and be back in the ranks once and for all.
His ongoing form in La Liga is evident to the fact that he now knows what he is doing. With a long season up ahead, the 31-year-old isn't quite looking forward to stopping at any cost. With a brand new team alignment that supports his style of play, Messi is undoubtedly getting back to his old deeds as a football player, who was once unstoppable. Given the fact that if his current form is to continue the way it is, the Argentine can eventually be the best all over again, and win the competition.
Valverde surely has succeeded in one particular aspect: Signing world-class players. Players who know how to do their jobs not just in terms of their allotted roles, but also making the most versatile plays the Barca fans have ever seen.
With an extremely wide range of young talent, from the likes of the long chased Arthur Melo, to the much experienced Arturo Vidal, who is yet another world-class midfielder, the Spanish side can only be getting better every single game. What truly has made the difference, is the fact that this Barcelona side, unlike much of the greater European teams, is all about simplicity.
Ernesto Valverde's side is more promising than it ever was. The likes of Coutinho and Dembele are slowly and steadily contributing to the kind of tactical awareness that Barcelona has to offer.
With scoring goals from set pieces, to holding the ball in their possession, this Barcelona side has succeeded on every single front. Given the fact that they may not have the big money signings like Manchester City or PSG, they are still considered as being one of the most feared sides all over the world. With a variety of options in terms of constructing plays and deploying players in different positions, they can surely win the Champions League title this very season. Although, it won't be as easy as it once used to be for them.