Coach: Luis Enrique
Key Signings: Arda Turan, Aleix Vidal
Key Sales: Gerard Deulofeu, Adama Traore, Xavi Hernandez
Last Season: 1st
This Season [predicted finish]: 1st
Predicted finish is the average prediction of the Football Espana team.
When Neymar slotted the ball into the back of the net in Berlin to win the Champions League it sealed the treble for Barcelona. It was an achievement that five months ago in January was unthinkable to Coach Luis Enrique. Defeat to Real Sociedad had put extreme pressure on the trainer but through sheer graft he managed to work through it with brilliant results.
Now the challenge is to repeat their efforts. With the razzmatazz of the club presidential elections finished, culminating in the election of Josep Maria Bartomeu, La Blaugrana have expertly weaved around FIFA’s transfer ban that won't be lifted until January 2016.
Aleix Vidal is a smart signing who progressed rapidly during his only season at Sevilla. The versatile full-back/winger will provide competition to a resurgent Dani Alves, whose future after the Champions League seemed in the air, but has signed a new two year contract. Acquiring Arda Turan on the other hand is a controversial move for two reasons. Firstly, transfers were not meant to be conducted during the election campaign, and even previous Presidents like Joan Gaspart and Josep Lluis Nunez respected these traditions.
Secondly, signing Turan was seen as a political move by Bartomeu, done to win votes against former President Joan Laporta. Talk came of Bartomeu pressuring the managing committee, which oversaw the administration of the club during the elections, to approve the move. However, in Bartomeu’s defence he did state the player had been requested by Luis Enrique. The only problem is neither Vidal nor Turan can play until January when the transfer ban ends.
Another controversial issue is the club selling off their graduates from the fabled La Masia academy. It's led to accusations of the Bartomeu administration shedding the identity of the club, which has made them so unique and won so many admirers.
The sale of Gerard Deulofeu, to Everton for €6m, and that of Adama Traore to Aston Villa for €10m, with a buy-back option, means two of the brightest academy graduates have been forced to go aboard. Under Pep Guardiola, Frank Rijkaard and Louis Van Gaal there were always players from the cantera progressing to the first team. That pipeline appears to have been shut off.
But while La Masia’s graduates being sold off is a worry what is far less of a concern is the lethality of Barca's attack. The trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were the cornerstone of their triumphs last season. With Ivan Rakitic and Andrés Iniesta in midfield there is little doubt the Catalans will be scoring goals by the bucket load.
However, what is of concern to Enrique will be in defence where lapses in concentration have led to severe ramifications. In the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla they threw away a three-goal lead before Pedro Rodriguez’s winner in extra time, and the first leg of the Supercopa de Espana saw Athletic Bilbao take a commanding four-goal lead.
Enrique has to solve these problems in defence – and do so without using the last two weeks of the transfer window, thanks to the club’s transfer embargo. If he can’t then Barca could find the defence of their League title difficult, let alone the Champions League.