Can Barcelona defend their treble? – Page 2 Sports – Page 2 Sports

Can Barcelona defend their treble? – Page 2 Sports – Page 2 Sports.

My piece for Page 2 sports on Barcelona defending their titles.

It seems a far-fetched question given the preseason has just begun for the Spanish side. It’s an interesting one though, and since we have time to twiddle our thumbs before the season starts we might as well press on.

This time last summer it was unlikely that a treble was even a consideration for the Blaugrana.

Barcelona was coming off the back of a trophy-less season, where they surrendered their La Liga title to Atletico Madrid on the last day and failed to overcome the same side in the Champions League knockout rounds. The usual merry-go-round of departures and arrivals saw a host of talented players join the side before a transfer ban was imposed.

Luis Enrique took the hot seat at the Nou Camp and many were questioning his ability to lead the squad after a tumultuous first half of the season. A 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad to begin 2015 led to stories that the Asturian was on the way out and led to the sacking of his boardroom ally, Andoni Zubizaretta. All matters were resolved and Barcelona went on a remarkable run, swatting aside opponents domestically and in Europe on the way to a much-deserved treble.

So why bring up the question now, only 12 months later?

Unlike many of their rivals, both domestically and abroad, Barca hasn’t, and won’t be undergoing a series of personnel changes. The squad seems to have accepted Enrique’s approach, a treble will probably do that for you, and no key members have left. The departure of Xavi is disheartening but the former captain was reduced to a bit-part role on the pitch and there’s still enough leadership in the dressing room to make up for his presence in that department. Martin Montoya’s exit was inevitable but, again, the squad won’t necessarily miss a player who only turned out for them 12 times.

Two other players who played a bit more, Pedro and Adriano, may also be on the way out but you still feel Enrique and co. will be able to cope. Thomas Vermaelen will be, to use Arsene Wenger’s favorite phrase, “like a new signing and will help solidify and add depth to the defense”. The club’s transfer ban means that youngsters will likely play a decent role early on, as they did last season, and given the talent the likes of Sergi Samper and Munir have then it won’t be a bad thing. Despite the ban, Barcelona did sign two players who will improve the squad’s depth and allow the continued progression towards Enrique’s style of play. Once they get on the pitch that is.

Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan joined the squad from Sevilla and Atletico Madrid knowing they can’t don the famous jersey for six months.  Both fit needs and will increase Barcelona’s progression away from the somewhat monotonous possession-based approach of old. Vidal will effectively replace Dani Alves along the right flank while Turan will help provide cover for Neymar, Luis Suarez and, to an extent, Andres Iniesta. There may be one or two more signings but this Barcelona side will still be ready to compete with anybody.

And they will have to compete.

Real Madrid has yet to make a splash in the summer proper but have already signed Brazilian right-back Danilo and overseen the return of defensive midfielder Casemiro. They could also use returned loan player Denis Cheryshev after his solid season with Villarreal. Atletico Madrid have made some very good signings of their own with the likes of Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto and Yannick Carrasco joining the club.

Across Europe, teams like Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, all vanquished by Barcelona last season, have yet to make significant upgrades. Last years other Champions League finalists, have made some solid moves but will be missing key players of their own. Manchester United could spring a surprise given their exorbitant spending, Chelsea will be Chelsea and Arsenal may be more confident depending on how their season goes. There are others to consider, of course, but one would think these teams would be among the favorites along with Barcelona and the two Madrid sides.

There’s no doubting that Barcelona will have competition on all fronts but the side can be quietly confident of success.

You’ll expect that Barcelona’s style will continue to evolve with another preseason. A full season for Luis Suarez should prove beneficial as well, along with continued improvement from Neymar. The new signings will be fresh when the middle of the season comes around, and hungry to prove themselves, while Enrique’s rotation of the squad will help keep key players on form as well. Then there’s Lionel Messi to contend with.

The Argentinian bounced back from disappointment at the World Cup to have a fantastic 2014/15 season. He was left shaking his head again this summer at the Copa America and the criticism from that will spur him on again this season.

It’s a long road ahead for Barcelona but there plenty of reasons why they can put together another historic campaign.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Barcelona drive makes the unmentioned double treble possible – ESPN FC | Always Thinking Football

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