Barcelona’s next great forward – who could replace Luis Suarez?

The striker will be a tough act to follow

As Barcelona head into the international break after a superb start to the season, one big questions lingers … what has gone wrong with Luis Suarez? And subsequently, how are Barcelona preparing for a future without him?

Several players have been heavily linked with Barca, most frequently Antoine Griezmann, ­­Paulo Dybala and Timo Werner but let’s not forget we also have Paco Alcacer. So, let’s take a look at the strengths, weaknesses, and overall prospects of each respective player.

We start off with the Atletico Madrid man, Antoine Griezmann. As he has shown on a large stage for over two years now, Griezmann has the quality necessary to be a Barcelona player. His ability to combine that quality with his pace and athleticism is something remarkable, and truly differentiates him from other strikers.

Where Griezmann adds to his value is his ability to play defense. As often expected from a Diego Simeone striker, scoring goals isn’t the only requirement, tracking back and putting pressure on the ball is necessary as well.

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League
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These two things have also been staples of the “Barcelona” system over the past decade, and Griezmann would adjust very well. However, while extremely talented, there are two large problems with any potential move for Griezmann.

Firstly, while he has consistently played great for Atletico and France, but when put under pressure on the biggest stage, he has faltered. Look no further than the missed penalty in the Champions League final versus Real Madrid and his disappearing act against Portugal in the final of the 2016 European Championship.

Secondly, there is the fact that he might not share space well with Lionel Messi. Both players enjoy wandering and finding spaces in an opponent’s defense before picking up the ball.

How Griezmann would slide into this lineup without causing a disturbance to Messi is something that must be taken into account. While his quality is great, there is a psychological and systematic concern about Griezmann… is buying him worth the risk? A player with his talent and work ethic should be deserving of the risk, regardless of spacing concerns.

Secondly, a name that has continued to be mentioned in transfer rumors is Timo Werner. The RB Leipzig forward is more of a traditional forward who thrives in wonderfully finishing off his team’s attacks.

At only 21 years of age, Werner has consistently shown his quality for two years ending last year’s Bundesliga campaign with 21 goals and leading his side to a shock Champions League spot.

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So far this year, Werner has added six goals and two assists. In addition, he has also proved his worth on the international stage for the German national team, claiming the Golden Boot at the 2017 Confederations Cup with three goals and two assists.

Clearly, Werner is a player who is developing at a fast pace and could be an extremely effective buy for Barcelona. One necessary point to bring up though is his age. Similar to many young players brought into Barcelona through the transfer market, it takes younger, less experienced players a longer time to settle into the Camp Nou. Patience is required and Werner would be wise to use Luis Suarez as a mentor if brought to Barca.

Another interesting option would be that of Paulo Dybala. Similar to Griezmann in his proven quality, Dybala is also extremely young considering his accomplishments. He has consistently led his Juventus side to amazing wins and Barcelona fans will surely remember his two goals in last season’s 3-0 Champions League quarter-final defeat in Turin.

Juventus v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: First Leg
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The biggest trepidation regarding Dybala is similar to that of Griezmann; his spacing. As observed in the current Argentina squad, Jorge Sampaoli has been unable to accommodate both Lionel Messi and Dybala in the same starting eleven because of their similarities. A solution could lie in bringing in Dybala 1-2 years from now and letting him learn from Messi before becoming a focal point of the team.

Last but not least, a striker with great potential is somebody already in the team, Paco Alcacer. Still only 24, he has already made a mark this year, evidenced with his two goals versus Sevilla in a 2-1 Barcelona win.

Barcelona v Sevilla - La Liga
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While Alcacer might not be grabbing headlines just yet, the talent is there and his confidence appears to be returning after a rough first year. While not considered a super star yet, if Alcacer continues developing, we could see a natural replacement for Suarez come from within the squad.

Ultimately, there is an abundance of striking talent in teams throughout Europe. For Barcelona to successfully pick a striker to replace Luis Suarez, they must take a player’s skill, age, and positional play into account.

Suarez will turn 31 in January and ensuring there is a forward to replace his goalscoring exploits when the time comes is critical to Barcelona’s future success. Whether we see that replacement in the next summer window or in two years, it is clear the time for planning is now. Visca Barca!

Who do you think should replace Luis Suarez at Barcelona when the time comes? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

Barcelona’s time to shine: Can they do it?

The Blaugrana have some tricky fixtures ahead

Barcelona may have stumbled to a 0-0 draw versus Olympiacos in midweek but throughout the game, the team created several great chances, none more so than Luis Suarez’s chip that dinked the crossbar.

While the game can certainly be viewed as a disappointment, it is important that Ernesto Valverde quickly motivates his players for Saturday’s clash with Sevilla in La Liga. With an international break looming, it is imperative that Barcelona end on a winning run.

The international break comes at an interesting time for Barcelona. They’re undefeated in league play, coming off a strong 2-0 win versus Athletic Bilbao, a team that may only have 11 points, but always present a tough challenge.

Athletic Club v Barcelona - La Liga
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Next up are Sevilla, currently sitting fifth in the table with 19 points, only one point behind Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Beating Sevilla would ensure Barca go into the break with at least an eight-point lead over Madrid with only 11 games played thus far. Not only that, but a win would solidify the confidence throughout the Barcelona squad. An important factor when accounting for the time spent away on international duty.

Secondly, and for the first time in a while, both Madrid and Atletico have not looked up for the challenge so far this year. Zinedine Zidane’s side are coming off two consecutive losses to minnows Girona and a strong Tottenham side, while Diego Simeone’s men just played out two consecutive draws versus Villarreal and Qarabag.

It is clear that both Madrid teams have a great manager and players and will get over their respective humps. However, their current slump gives Barcelona the opportunity to build a lead, in case of hiccups further in the campaign, and the club will surely drop points at some stage. In short, a win on Saturday gives Barcelona some room for error.

Another interesting caveat to this current La Liga table is the strength of teams not named Barcelona, Real Madrid, or Atletico Madrid. As mentioned before Sevilla sit only a point behind third place and the biggest surprise of the current year is Valencia. Led by Marcelino, Valencia have revitalized their team and are sitting in second place with 24 points from 10 games. A trip to the Mestalla awaits too, Barca head to Valencia on November 26.

Often times, the biggest critique of La Liga is the lack of competition present throughout the division. It seems as though this year, all teams are playing great football and truly challenging the heavyweights of the division.

Sevilla v NK Maribor - UEFA Champions League
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Ultimately, a slip-up versus Sevilla could come at an inopportune time for Barcelona, with the club left to stew over the international break and unable to respond immediately. Therefore, with a chance to maintain or build upon their perfect start, it is imperative that Valverde maintains the motivation in his squad.

Let’s also not forget that Barcelona still have Ousmane Dembele due to return. With a big lead the club will have the luxury of slowly easing him back into the lineup and reinvigorating their attacking play.

With both domestic rivals in a slump, Barcelona can ease the pressure off themselves further in the campaign by building a large lead. Is this current squad up to the challenge? Only time will tell… Visca Barca!

Suarez or Alcacer – Who deserves to start for Barcelona against Athletic Bilbao?

Who would be the best option for Barca at San Mames?

As Barcelona prepare to face Athletic Bilbao, there are several interesting aspects to the clash. Firstly, it is Ernesto Valverde’s first game against his former club and it will be interesting to see how Bilbao’s passionate fans receive the former gaffer. Another fascinating feature is in regards to the conundrum Valverde faces up front.

So far this season, Valverde has been completely supportive of Luis Suarez, whether the striker had scored in a game or not. When asked about his misfiring striker recently he leapt to his defence saying:

“He did well at Atletico, scored, and had chances against Olympiakos. We know he will have two, three, four chances in a game – he’s there being a nuisance for opposition defenders.”

Sporting CP v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League
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While Valverde’s statement is true and Suarez has continued to be a nuisance to all defenses, his critical touch has been missing so far this year, and the question must be asked, have we seen the best of Luis Suarez at Barcelona?

On the other hand, Alcacer is coming off a goal scored in midweek versus Murcia int he Copa del Rey. While that isn’t a great accomplishment in itself, it certainly will help with Alcacer’s confidence.

It is critical to remember that while it seems Alcacer has been with the club for a while, it is only his second year. In addition, the pressures of the first year may now have worn off and don’t forget he is still only 24.

Deportivo Alaves v Barcelona - La Liga
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An introduction to a big league game against the manager’s former team, could work wonders for the confidence of the young man. In his last year at Valencia, Alcacer scored 13 goals in the Liga campaign. Clearly, the talent is there, it seems it is just a matter of adjusting to the Barcelona way and finally imposing his will on games.

Valverde will have a lot of questions to answer before the game vs Athletic, the midfield is up for debate with Ivan Rakitic disappointing so far and Denis Suarez excelling wherever he is placed in the line-up.

The biggest question though is if Alcacer has earned the manager’s trust in training and in games. If so, is it possible that this season sets the stage for a transformation in the striker position, or will Suarez come out flying and remind all Barcelona fans of his world class talent? Only time will tell! Visca Barca!

Who do you think deserves to start against Athletic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Valverde must look to youth to build strong future at Barcelona

The coach must nurture the club’s young stars

In the midst of a blistering start to the season, Barcelona just keep on winning. After dropping points for the first time against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona got back to winning ways in the Champions League picking up a 3-1 win against Olympiakos, before seeing off Malaga 2-0 on Saturday.

As Barcelona move forward this season, Ernesto Valverde has a chance to implement his ideology in the squad and truly foster the young talent in the team. Similar to the implementation and progression of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Gerard Pique under Pep Guardiola, players such as Denis Suarez, Samuel Umtiti, and Nelson Semedo can experience a similar progression.

The point is, Valverde not only has an opportunity to etch his name into club history by winning games, but by improving the players under his watch. In addition to the three mentioned above, there are more young players such as Sergi Roberto, Andre Gomes, and even Paco Alcacer who are searching for opportunities.

FC Barcelona v Olympiakos Piraeus - UEFA Champions League
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Yes, the ultimate goal this year is to win as many trophies as possible. This means starting the eleven players in each game that give Barcelona the best chance of winning. While this is the ultimate goal, a secondary goal must be the improvement of players important to Barcelona’s future.

As we know, growing older is something not even a player of Lionel Messi’s caliber can stop. The success of this year rests on the shoulders of players older and younger, but in order to ensure a strong foundation in the coming years, Valverde must put his trust in players who will be here for several years.

It seems as though Valverde has still not found a consistent starting eleven for big games. The midfield has consistently been shifted around, along with the front three. Rumors regarding Valverde’s decision to start Andre Gomes on the left wing versus Atletico indicate that Suarez and Messi were baffled by the manager’s decision.

While these two players certainly have the right to have their opinions heard and respected, they must accept the fact that the manager might have a better plan. It seems as though Valverde is understanding of the fact that he must build a newer, younger foundation for the future.

Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga
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Instead of relying only on the players popular under Luis Enrique, he has given far more opportunities to the youngsters, even in big games that are scrutinized much more obsessively.

As mentioned before, winning trophies this year is instrumental to the long-term success of Barcelona. But, Ernesto Valverde has the chance to build a foundation for this Barcelona team that can last throughout the decade.

How Valverde chooses his match day squads is vital to the development of players such as Denis Suarez. Even if Valverde only lasts three to four years, his decisions throughout this season can have an effect on Barcelona for many more years.

With a fantastic start to the year in the books, Valverde can take pride in that. On the other hand though, Valverde’s team is in transition and his decisions on who to play will effect both the players’ futures, and more importantly, the club’s. Visca Barca.

Is Antoine Griezmann the right man for Barcelona?

The Atletico forward has been linked with a move

As Barcelona prepare to face their toughest La Liga challenge of the season so far, there are several intriguing aspects ahead of the clash.

Firstly, will Lionel Messi be able to focus on the clash after gloriously leading Argentina to the World Cup finals?

Secondly, will the players who were away on international duty have enough energy left to make an impact against a tough Atletico squad at the Wanda Metropolitano?

But thirdly, it gives Barcelona fans an opportunity to dissect the performance of a player who just this past week has again been linked with a move to Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann.

Atletico Madrid v Malaga - La Liga
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There are several aspects to Griezmann’s game that could make him an outstanding addition to the team. Firstly, he is a natural goalscorer, he scored 16 goals last season and has two goals and an assist in five La Liga games so far this campaign.

At Atletico, he is the key man up front and therefore defences pay special attention to him. However, if inserted into a line-up with a combination of Messi, Luis Suarez, or Ousmane Dembele, surely Griezmann’s goalscoring record would only increase? In addition, the pure quality in Barcelona’s midfield, from Andres Iniesta to Ivan Rakitic, would also help increase the forward’s goalscoring tally. In short, he will bring goals.

Another important factor that cannot be understated is Griezmann’s ability to track back. When studying Atletico games, Griezmann is often seen chasing down opposing center-backs and pick-pocketing opposing midfielders to start a counter-attack for his team. This sort of defensive mentality and aptitude would fit in perfectly with the Barcelona team accustomed to pressing.

However, there are two drawbacks to the possible signing of Griezmann. Firstly, the impact it would have on Messi. While the two players are different enough, they do share distinct similarities, such as being on the ball and initiating their team’s attacks.

This could potentially cause a problem that has been encountered by the Argentina national team and Paulo Dybala. Dybala, a player very similar to Messi, said, “It is not easy to play with Messi because we play the same way.” While many took the remarks as an insult, Dybala was simply speaking the truth.

Any team in the world does not have enough spacing for two players who play so similarly to occupy the same pitch. If a move for Griezmann progresses, Ernesto Valverde will have to first ensure that the balance currently found in the squad remains.

The second potential drawback is similar to the first, but centers around another player in the squad, Luis Suarez. One of Griezmann’s greatest assets is his flexibility and he has played as a center-forward. Rumors this past week have centered around Suarez’s edgy relationship with Valverde due in part to his positioning, his poor start, and rumors linking Griezmann as a possible replacement may not help.

AS Roma v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League
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Suarez will turn 31 in January but is still a world-class player and somebody who motivates his team-mates to great feats. Ensuring that the Uruguayan picks up his form and stays happy at Barcelona is integral to the success of this season and the future as well. A possible solution lies in allowing Messi to move into a False 9 position (more towards the midfield), placing Griezmann on the left/right wing, Suarez in the center, and either Dembele, Gerard Deulofeu, or Denis Suarez on the other.

Ultimately, if Barcelona do decide to move for Griezmann, they can sleep well knowing that his world-class talent will certainly improve the squad.

If a move progresses though, it is key to understand that simply buying talented players doesn’t make an effective squad. It is imperative to buy talented players who can integrate and improve the squad as well! Visca Barca!

Denis Suarez: Fighting for his spot and his future at Barcelona

The midfielder’s impact has been felt this season

One of the biggest talking points going into the new season was how Barcelona were going to replace Neymar. With the signing of Ousmane Dembele, the club and fans felt slightly less apprehensive, but after the Frenchman’s injury, a new player has stepped into the limelight to display his quality. Some might be thinking Gerard Deulofeu, but no… instead it has been Denis Suarez.

Gifted with a brilliant understanding of the Barcelona system, Suarez has differentiated himself from competitors for a starting position in a unique way.

Throughout the already young season, rumors regarding unhappiness in regards to playing time have been swirling from Sergio Roberto to Deulofeu. In particular, Deulofeu has always been a player piped for so much, but lacking so much in effort.

FC Barcelona v Real Sociedad de Futbol - La Liga
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This can be seen as a lack of effort on the pitch, as well as in his mentality. Over the summer, Denis Suarez rejected two offers, including one from Napoli in order to fight for his place in the team, stating: “I had no doubts about staying… I know I have the manager’s faith and I believe in my chances. If I take advantage of my opportunities, my objective is to be an important player here and I won’t stop fighting for that.”

It seems as though while similar in quality on the pitch, the true differentiation between Suarez and Deulofeu is the commitment to make an impact on a club that means so much to them.

Unlike Deulofeu, Suarez’s impact this year has not only been felt offensively, but defensively as well. The question of, “Is he willing to track back?” does not apply to Suarez, because we have seen it again and again.

On the subject of offensive contribution, Suarez has proved that his natural quality can be paired with a great creativity as well. Overall, Suarez has played in six games thus far during the Liga campaign. He has started two matches, and in those two starts accumulated one goal and two assists, paired with an 84.35% passing success rate.

A snapshot of the player’s unrelenting mindset and quality can be captured in a substitute appearance during Barcelona’s match versus Getafe. Down 1-0, Ernesto Valverde introduced Suarez as a second-half substitute.

Immediately, the difference was felt and eventually Suarez ensured that his manager’s choice of substitution was a success. Picking up possession in the box, he displayed his quality on the ball as well, as he perfectly placed his shot past Getafe’s keeper Vincente Guaita.

Barcelona v Eibar - La Liga
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One of the aspects that most Barcelona fans acknowledge and respect in their players is the value of hard work. No player is let off the hook in terms of effort, whether it is Lionel Messi or Deulofeu.

It seems as though Denis Suarez understands this perfectly, and is willing to put his blood, sweat, and tears into this Blaugrana team. Deulofeu on the other hand, seems to continue to think that only goals and assists can appease the board, his team-mates, and the fans.

In order to be a success in this team, quality is needed, but effort is first and foremost in becoming an integral part of the team. Bravo to Denis Suarez for realizing that fact and continuing to pair effort with quality.

Hopefully, his great form continues and the team can find a natural replacement for either Xavi or Andres Iniesta. Somebody who recognizes that in order to succeed on the pitch, you must first succeed in your own mind. Visca Barca!

What’s going wrong for Luis Suarez at Barcelona?

The striker is out of form and struggling for goals

After a perfect start to the season, there cannot be many complaints hurled at this Barcelona side.

The defence looks formidable, the hard-working element has been thrust back in and, so far at least, the team has proved unbeatable.

However, with the insertion of Lionel Messi into a central role, one drawback can be seen in the form of another world-class player in the team, Luis Suarez.

Since the beginning of Suarez’s European career, at Ajax, the striker has always shown a work-rate that can be classified at times as unbelievable.

AFC Ajax v AJ Auxerre - UEFA Champions League
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Throughout the years, the number 9 has always been seen sprinting toward the ball in order to win it, or to create space for his team-mates. This year though, Suarez has not found his form yet and we are left to wonder – have we have already seen the best of Suarez at Barcelona?

Similar to the beginning of his first year in a Barcelona jersey, Suarez seems to lack his usual striker’s confidence.

In 2014, Suarez was initially drawn as a winger in the side by Luis Enrique, a tactic that has been employed by Ernesto Valverde as well.

While Suarez certainly has the capability of playing on the wing, his true talents and goalscoring exploits occur in the centre of the pitch. Suarez lacks the touch and passing ability of Neymar, Messi, or even Ousmane Dembele.

Countless times this season already, we’ve seen his evident frustrations at a misplaced pass or his inability to influence play.

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - Supercopa de Espana: 1st Leg
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As a natural striker, Suarez’s best moments come when he has the ability to attract and control the ball in a dangerous area. His body movement and ball flicks allow him to consistently keep defenders guessing.

This year though, with Messi more central, Suarez has had to keep the ball at his feet and influence games with more passing than we are used to.

Due to this, not only is Suarez scoring less, but it seems that when given an opportunity to shoot on goal, his confidence has dipped as well.

Ultimately, Valverde has made the right choice by playing Messi in the middle and freeing up the entire Barcelona squad. But, one drawback is the negative influence this positioning has on Suarez.

While Messi certainly should be accommodated, Suarez’s natural movements and goalscoring exploits should not be undervalued.

It is integral that Valverde finds out how to accommodate both players, because as seen in Barcelona’s treble- winning season, Suarez’s impact can effectively free up more space for the entire team.

Sporting CP v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League
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When thriving, as he was that first year in the central position, in crucial Champions League games against PSG, Bayern, and Juventus, his movement, natural ferocity, and confidence gave each defence a huge amount of problems.

At 30 years of age, we can confidently say that a physical decline has not started, but it seems that a mental adjustment is necessary.

We have seen the greatness of Luis Suarez for several years and will continue to see it demonstrated as well, but it is up to Valverde to provide the correct situation for his greatness to shine.

Paulinho, Denis Suarez & Nelson Semedo deliver to give Barcelona options

The squad may not be as thin as first thought

After a chaotic summer that left Barcelona feeling relatively low going into the new campaign, it’s fair to stay the club have so far surpassed expectations.

Most notably Barcelona’s new additions have been in blistering form and have helped propel the team to an amazing start. Since the two losses to Real Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana, Barcelona have won six matches in a row, scoring 20 goals and conceding only three.

While there are several contributing factors for this start, none more important than Lionel Messi, the players surrounding the Argentine must be given credit as well.

The most controversial signing of the summer was of course Paulinho. But in addition to scoring the winner against Getafe, Paulinho started the game against Eibar yesterday and posted some impressive statistics – as shown by Squawka:

Paulinho’s towering header was reminiscent of a particular Carlos Puyol header and showcased something missing from the squad in previous seasons, a strong, physical presence.

In addition to his goal, Paulinho played several key passes freeing up players, and set up one of Messi’s goals. His little dummy in the build-up to Denis Suarez’s goal was also pretty special.

While two games against weaker competition such as Getafe and Eibar cannot be reason for too much excitement, if Paulinho continues this form, he will gain the trust of the fans, the manager, and will continue to help the team.

Nelson Semedo has also proven a stunning buy. Similar to Paulinho’s physical comparison with Carles Puyol, Semedo has displayed qualities similar to Dani Alves.

Once again the right-back position again has a marauding player capable of overlaps, key passes, and the necessary quality to make a true difference in games.

While somewhat overlooked, Semedo’s price tag in this delirious market may come to seem like the steal of the transfer window in a couple of years, similar to Ivan Rakitic’s from a couple of seasons ago.

And then there’s Suarez…the first name that comes to mind is Luis, but against Eibar, Denis made a wonderful case for additional minutes in the games to come. Of course he’s not a new signing but this is surely a crucial season for him if he is to have a future at the club.

While Luis Suarez has so far looked lost on the wings in the first few games, Denis opens up several avenues for this team.

Barcelona v Eibar - La Liga
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His passing so far has been superior to that of Luis, along with his movement on the wing. With two goals in two games, he seems to plug in naturally there, even though you suspect it’s not his favourite position.

And last, but certainly not least, we have Gerard Deulofeu. Picking up where Dembele left off, Deulofeu produced creativity and skill on the right wing. Yes he was dispossessed several times and yes he sometimes lacked the quality to deliver the final ball, but Deulofeu’s invention should not be underscored.

Hopefully, with more time and confidence, that creativity will be paired with the necessary skill, and Deulofeu can develop into the player we all once thought he could be.

Ultimately, while pundits, fans, and experts all considered Barcelona’s squad depleted and the transfer window a disaster, this group of players is so far proving everyone wrong.

If players on the fringe of the starting XI such as Denis and Paulinho can continue producing, Valverde will have a big selection headache, but one he probably won’t mind having at all.

In order for the team to compete for all trophies, competition for starting spots is a must; and so far in this young season… that competition seems to be prevalent throughout the entire squad. Visca Barca.

Why Barcelona must be careful with Lionel Messi

The World Cup is coming and the burden is growing

Lionel Messi has been the official conductor of the Barcelona orchestra since the great Ronaldinho was sold (or even before may argue) and again on Tuesday night against Juventus he demonstrated his brilliance.

During his time in the first team, Messi has now scored 515 goals and supplied 231 assists in 589 matches (via messi10stats). For his country, Argentina, Messi has scored 58 goals in 120 appearances.

This year though, Messi faces a daunting challenge that could affect his longevity both now and in the future; namely being the leader of both Barcelona and Argentina.

While considered the best player of our generation, and quite possibly of all time, this year poses a significantly more difficult challenge for the great Argentinian forward.

In Barcelona’s previous two treble-winning seasons, the greatness surrounding Messi was apparent: Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets, Neymar, and Luis Suarez to name just a few.

FC Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano de Madrid - La Liga
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However, while still surrounded by amazing talent, this year is shaping up to be different for Messi. Even when playing superbly and winning trophies, Messi always had the help of world-class players behind him.

With Xavi and Iniesta leading the golden years of Spanish football from 2008-2012, Messi had two midfield maestros that made life significantly easier.

When he scored 91 goals in 2012, some credit was given to the midfield at Barcelona for making it easier and the abundance of attacking talent in the Argentinian squad.

That season was also Pep Guardiola’s last year and the main criticism from that team was the beginning of Messidependencia an over-reliance on Messi and his genius.

Reinforcements were needed to ease this burden, which led to the purchases of both Neymar and Suarez. This year, without the consistent brilliance of Iniesta, Xavi, and even Neymar, the burden is on Messi again.

Not only is he expected to score goals, but also to set up play for Suarez, Dembele, and in general, the entire team in the final third. However, as seen during Guardiola’s final season, an over-reliance on Messi is detrimental to the entire squad.

FC Barcelona v RCD Espanyol  - Liga BBVA
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The total footballing system created by Johan Cruyff was not made to be orchestrated by one person, but instead to allow the best qualities of all players to be shown.

Relying on Messi’s magic each game can lead to a lack of invention for other position players and consequently lead to the double/triple teaming of Messi.

This sort of predicament leads to more challenges, minutes, and ultimately more frustration for Messi in the Barcelona team.

There are problems too for Messi with Argentina and this past international break is indicative of the problems he could face at Barcelona with over reliance.

In their World Cup qualifier against Venezuela that ended 1-1, Messi orchestrated every chance Argentina had.

There wasn’t a significant threat on the field other than Messi himself and Venezuela were able to focus their defensive strategy on containing the maestro, not the entire team.

Due to this, Argentina were only able to score once and lacked invention throughout the entire pitch except for the diminutive winger.

Brazil Global Tour - Brazil v Argentina
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In essence, Messi is facing a season where he has to be the lone focal point for both club and country. Even by his standards, that is daunting and something that can be exhausting.

It is up to both managers and especially Ernesto Valverde to realize that Messi, while still magical, also cannot take too large of a burden.

In order for him to be most effective in the latter stages of the year, when the games matter the most, Messi’s freshness is key.

Implementing tactics and strategy to relieve Messi of having all the burden in creating chances can better the chances of Barcelona competing in all three competitions to their culmination.

Barcelona run through Messi, if he’s going full speed and is well rested, so is Barcelona.

Ernesto Valverde has Barcelona & Messi hungry for success

The new coach has got off to a flawless start

Perhaps most of us were too quick to judge this summer. The loss of Neymar became synonymous with the squandered opportunity of staying competitive against Europe’s elite clubs.

Yesterday, we learned something about this Barcelona team, something that should excite fans and strike fear into opposing clubs. Yesterday it became clear that in addition to the quality possessed, this Barcelona squad also have the desire and motivation necessary for a triumphant campaign.

A large percentage of the successful start to the season must be given to the players, but praise must also be given to the new manager, Ernesto Valverde.

In terms of desire, it can be summed up in one particular moment during the Juventus game. Around the 85th minute of the game, Juventus left-back Alex Sandro picked up the ball with acres of space in front of him.

As he moved forward though, Barcelona’s maestro, Lionel Messi produced a lung-busting sprint to place pressure on Sandro and discontinued the Juventus move.

FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The score was 3-0 and the game was won. Messi could have simply stayed in his position and allowed Juventus a possible consolation goal, but the team’s mentality is different from the previous two years and that is down to Valverde.

Implementing tactics and ensuring match fitness of players are critical parts of being a successful manager. Valverde has proven capable of both these tasks so far into the season, but has also added a spark of motivation into the squad that hasn’t been seen since the treble winning season.

Barcelona so far this year has demonstrated that the high press is back, and back with a vengeance. Countless times the Juventus backline was forced to kick the ball away, including goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon.

The front three of Messi, Luis Suarez, and Ousmane Dembele were constantly pressing and supporting their full-backs when dispossessed. The midfield, including ageing wonder Iniesta were in non-stop sprints when Barcelona was without the ball.

FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

It seems as though Valverde has reminded his team that while quality alone can win certain games, the correct attitude and determination allows the team to control every game.

Similar to the team’s first year under Luis Enrique, Barcelona have started the season angry, in the best sense of the word. Winning only a single trophy last year and seeing eternal rivals Real Madrid win the league and the Champions League ensured that the players entered the off-season with a bitter taste of defeat.

Neymar leaving for PSG only added to the bitterness. Instead of sulking though, this team is out to send a message. Avenging the Juventus defeat of last year is now checked off the list.

Moving forward, this team is poised to develop further due to becoming more comfortable with Valverde’s tactics, integrating new players such as Dembele and Semedo, and continuing to play with a collective chip on their shoulder.

FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

The entire squad deserve to be showered with praise for their performance against Juventus, but let us not forget about Valverde.

After a summer that many thought was disastrous, he has cultivated the players to not only show their quality, but their innate desire to be champions of the league and Europe.

If Valverde can continue to get the most out of his players in terms of effort, the quality will follow, and eventually… so will the trophies. Visca el Barca.