2016/17 Barcelona Season Preview
Last year’s position: 1st
In another epic battle at the top of La Liga last time out, Barcelona pipped rivals Real Madrid to the title by just one point. As their 86th consecutive top flight season approaches, fans will be hoping for yet another trophy filled year.
Luis Enriqué took over as manager at the Camp Nou in 2014. He won the treble in his first season, which included the Champions League, and the domestic double in his second. He has recently stated after a successful transfer window that he believes the current squad is his best yet. Time will tell.
Positives from last season
Beating rivals Real Madrid to the title by a single point will have pleased so many supporters. Many would have liked the gap to have been larger but to pip their rivals to the title like this will have felt just as good, if not better.
The goals and form of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar Jr wowed fans across the world last season. The trio scored a total of 141 goals between them in all competitions. If these three perform close to these heights again this coming season, expect more silverware to be heading to the trophy room at the Camp Nou.
Four trophies were won last season. La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and the Fifa Club World Cup were all added to the impressive list of honours the club has amassed over the years.
Negatives from last season
Failure to retain the Champions League after being knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Spanish counterparts Altético Madrid. This will have hurt but at the same time made the club even more determined to get the hands on the trophy once again.
Lack of goals and assists from anyone other than the main trio of Messi, Suárez and Neymar Jr. This is not a problem when this trio score as many as they do but if injuries hit for example it could become an issue. Enriqué has said lately that he would like another striker. He has already improved other areas so far and bringing in another striker would be the next sensible move.
April: Their impressive 39 game unbeaten record was broken at the hands of Real Madrid. They were then knocked out the Champions League and also beaten by Real Sociedad and Valencia. However they did round of the month in style winning the final three games of the month and scoring 16 goals in the process.
The season will also be unfortunately remembered for the tragic loss of a legend. In March, ex-player and manager Johan Cruyff sadly died at the age 68.
So far four pre-season games have been played. Three have been won while one was lost, a poor 4-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool. With Neymar Jr at the Olympic Games representing Brazil, Munir has been given a chance to shine alongside Messi and Suárez. He has not let anyone down so far, scoring three goals in the four matches. Messi and Suárez have also been amongst the goals as would be expected.
With friendlies now over, attentions now turn to the Supercopa de España. Barcelona will face Sevilla in a two-legged final. After this, Enriqué will be hoping the team’s preparation will be complete and they will be ready to face Real Betis in their first match of the La Liga season on 20th August.
Players to look out for
Apart from the obvious talent of the forward three, Ivan Rakitić is one to keep an eye on. The all-action midfielder is the current Croatian Footballer of the Year with an eye for goal. He is often the man to bridge the gap between the midfield and attack. Although seen as an attacking player he is also very good at winning the ball back and setting Barça off on the attack once again. His style can be one of the main reasons he often doesn’t finish the full 90 minutes. However, few supporters will mind if he has played the way he can and has helped the team to yet another victory.
In: So far almost £80 million has been spent improving the squad. Portuguese midfielder André Gomes has arrived from Valencia (€35M) and French defenders Lucas Digne (€16.5M) and Samuel Umtiti (€25M) signed from Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon. The buyback clause (€3.25M) of Denis Suárez was also activated when he rejoined from Villarreal.
Key outs: Defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Dani Alves have been allowed to move on as has fellow defender Marc Bartra who has joined Borussia Dortmund for €8 million. Promising young talent Alen Halilović has also been allowed to leave Camp Nou. He has joined Hamburg for €5 million.
The El Clasico games (vs Real Madrid) are always games to look forward to and often they are classics. Barça have had a good record against teams at the top of the table last season. However, they need to be more careful against other sides. You can’t win every game but teams such as Valencia, who struggled for much of last season, took four points from Barça. The likes of Real Sociedad and Celta Vigo also recorded victories, as did the often impressive Sevilla.
After completing the domestic double Barça will be competing on four fronts this season. With manager Enrique claiming that he now has his best squad yet, who would bet against them winning them all? It is highly unlikely that Barcelona will finish outside of the top three this season; the last time they did was back in 2003. Unless disaster strikes and a major injury list appears then Barça have the firepower to beat anyone, not just in La Liga but also the world.
It will once again be close at the top of the table, especially between the top three, and it will be tough to retain the title. Barcelona are not unbeatable but they will win far more than they lose. It’s up to the other teams to figure out ways to stop them. A tough ask and one which will require a lot of skill, hard work and maybe more importantly, luck.