Last season ended on a sombre note for the fans and players of Barcelona. Having witnessed arch rivals Real Madrid storm to the La Liga title in a similar way to which they themselves had done for the past few years, the club bid a fond farewell to one of the most successful and beloved managers of recent years. Pep Guaridola’s decision not to renew his contract signaled the end of an era which heralded 14 trophies in quite scintillating fashion. Nevertheless, it has opened the door for understudy Tito Vilanova to prove his credentials. Formerly Pep’s assistant, the Barca board promoted him to the top job, convinced there was no other candidate more suitable for the job. Despite confidence from the Barca board in Tito’s abilities however, Betfair Football Betting are still skeptical he can bring the La Liga title back to the Nou Camp in the first attempt as they make arch rivals Real Madrid favorites to retain their Primera Division crown this season at 9/10.
Vilanova knows the players already and will carry on where Pep left off. He has inherited a wrath of world class players who are more than capable of winning every competition they enter. Fuelled on a steely desire to knock Madrid from their perch, the squad will need no motivation to go out and claim what they feel is rightfully theirs.
Barcelona have match winners in every position, many of whom need no introduction, and can claim to be the greatest club side around at the moment, if not of the last decade!
Yet they still managed to strengthen the squad during the summer by bringing in Jordi Alba from Valencia. A former member of the prestigious youth team, Alba scored during the Euro 2012 final and has progressed well in the last year for both Spain and Valencia. A greater attacking threat down the left now makes Barca look like they’re playing a 2-7-1 formation!
Coming back from injury, David Villa will give the feeling of a new signing too having spent much of last season out with a broken leg. The Spanish striker will help out the peerless Messi upfront and perhaps aid him in scoring more than last season when he broke the European record for goals in a season!
Despite their attack minded philosophy, Barca have a great defensive system. Victor Valdes picked up the Zamora trophy last season and the intense pressing of the midfield can turn defense into attack in an instant. Sergio Busquets and Seydou Keita took up that responsibility last season but the Mali midfielder has since left for China, meaning Javier Mascherano might actually be given his favoured role rather than having to play as a makeshift centre-back.
Having such versatility within the ranks can be a wonderful gift to inherit, especially as injuries occur throughout the campaign, but the lack of depth within the Barca squad let them down last year and was one of the reasons why they failed to retain the league and Champions League. Lionel Messi endured half of the season as the sole striker whilst Mascherano had to play as a centre-back more frequently than he’d have expected. The likes of Tello and Cuenca can cause a stir from the bench but they are slightly too raw to push the team on for the win.
This is where Vilanova must strengthen. Guardiola often reverted to Tello and Cuenca as his plan B but for obvious reasons it didn’t always come off. The new boss has the world at his feet and quality at his disposal but a slight adjustment in the attacking department could be the difference between one trophy or three.
La Liga: 2nd
Copa del Rey: Winners (3-0 over Athletic Bilbao)
Champions League: Semi-final (lost to Chelsea 3-2 on agg)
Jordi Alba €14m from Valencia
Henrique free to Palmeiras
Seydou Keita free to Dalian Aerbin
Ruben Mino free to Mallorca
One to Watch: Messi. Best player of the current generation.
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