Last season was a tough one for Barcelona and their supporters, with the loss of their La Liga title to deadly rivals Real Madrid and the Champions League one to Chelsea, coupled with the departure of massively successful manager Pep Guardiola at the end of the season. Now the club is starting again with their new manager – Guardiola’s former assistant Tito Vilanova – and the question on the lips of football pundits and die-hard Barca fans alike who line the Nou Camp terraces every week is, can they regain the title they lost last year?
Clearly Barcelona are looking for a smooth transition between the Guardiola and Vilanova eras, with little change being made to the squad during the summer; a strategy which should be boosted by the fact that the players will already know Vilanova well and be used to dealing with him.
The downside of this is that sometimes a completely fresh start is the only way for a club and manager to avoid being overshadowed by the achievements of a very successful predecessor; when you look for positive and negative examples of this approach, an example of it working would be the transition from Bill Shankley to Bob Paisley at Liverpool; while an example of it failing would be the various managers who attempted to follow Sir Matt Busby at Manchester United. Vilanova will be subject to intense scrutiny and needs to be successful quickly to avoid unflattering comparisons to his predecessor.
There is also the continued challenge posed by Real Madrid, under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho; but it is possible that Mourinho and Madrid may be distracted by the Champions League this year – and the club has not strengthened significantly during the summer any more than Barca has. Of course Barca need to do well in this competition as well, but their primary focus is likely to be regaining their La Liga crown. It stands to be a fascinating contest between these two giants again this coming season.