The champions of La Liga and the undisputed kings of Spanish football (judging from the past 15 seasons) are back with a bang after an opening day loss to Bilbao, reminding the rest of the league about how dangerous they are with a 5-2 thrashing of Real Betis in Camp Nou on Sunday night.
However, there is still much going on with Barcelona that, on careful observation, may make fans of the club and neutrals have doubts about how well the club will perform this season.
Of course, they are always favourites for any trophy and are assured – based on trends of the past 15 years – to win at least one trophy this season, but it looks like it may be much more of a daunting task than it usually would be for the club.
Let’s look at the facts.
Barcelona strengthened their squad this season with the arrivals of Antoine Griezmann, Junior Firpo, Frenkie De Jong and Neto Murara. These are quality signings which could prove problematic for the manager, Ernesto Valverde during team selections.
Griezmann, a player that will make every top 10 superstar list, was signed from Atletico to complement an attack which already has Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and Rafinha. With Rafinha (who is the subject of several transfer speculations) back from his year-long injury and playing very well, Valverde may have sleepless nights choosing the best attack for his team this season as well as keeping this superstar contingent satisfied. And with Neymar looming, it probably is going to get tougher for Valverde.
De Jong joins a quality midfield contingent of Ivan Rakitic, Arthur, Sergio Busquets, Carles Aleña, Sergi Roberto and Arturo Vidal, and with none of them looking to exit before the transfer window closes, this will pose another problem for Valverde.
In the 2018/19 season, Barcelona had conceded 16 more goals in the league by April 2019 than they did in the entire 2017/18 season. Marca also mentioned that in fact, Barcelona have not been this bad defensively in the past six seasons. Game week 2 of the 2019/20 season just ended and they have conceded three goals already, and with no changes made to the backline this season, it looks like fans of the club are in for more of the same.
Barcelona always dominate games they play in terms of the major statistics but more often than not, they have had to rely on the talismanic Messi to bail them out. Last season, Messi picked up his sixth European Golden boot having scored 36 goals in the league, and even with the addition of Griezmann to the attack, fans and pundits alike expect this season to be just the same. Barcelona have a lot of bark, but when it comes to attack, they lack the bite.
There have been a few matches where they dominated without Messi and a few in which Messi was kept quiet by the opposition, but these sorts of games are few and in between. Valverde has his work cut out for him this season if he’s going to keep up with the other top three teams, Atletico and Real Madrid, who have strengthened their attack.
Barcelona has a pretty decent away form in La Liga, but their form against the top half teams in recent seasons has been shaky. They struggle to find their stride in most of these matches. Even though it doesn’t have much effect in the long run on their title challenge, the Messidependencia will still remain a problem. And with Messi beginning to develop fitness issues in his 30s, this could prove a problem.
Bookmaker odds favour another title win for Barcelona, albeit with lower odds figures due to pre-season showings and transfer activities of other La Liga clubs. We also favour a La Liga win for Barcelona and continued dominance of the statistics.
However, many things can go wrong this season which could signal the start of the much anticipated “banter era” of the club.