After a harrowing end to the 2011/12 football season, FC Barcelona are keen to regain Spanish and European supremacy this season and establish themselves as arguably one of the best teams ever.

However, after a promising start, La Blaugrana have shown a dip in form and some early season concerns have appeared over the past few days.

TheHardTackle takes a look into 5 of the biggest early season concerns for Tito Vilanova and Co. that could possible demolish Barcelonaai??i??s chances of ai???regaining the supremacyai??i?? they held for a few years and knocking the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid off the European and Spanish summit respectively.

1. Injuries and Drained out Spaniards

Last season, one of the prime reasons why Barcelona couldnai??i??t compete on three fronts was the injury crisis that developed midway through the season and lasted long enough to shut down the clubai??i??s chances to have a strong in-depth team during the business end of the season.

Three gameweeks into the new season and Barcelona already have Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Isaac Cuenca and Thiago Alcantara on the sidelines. Added to that, one will have to see how players like Jordi Alba and Xavi Hernandez will be able to play week-in week-out, considering the two were heavily involved in their nationai??i??s Euro 2012 campaign and there are chances that they could be severely drained out.

In all fairness, if the injuries continue to affect the team to such a large extent and the Spanish entourage of Barcelona is unable to play at its potential best due to fatigue or other fitness problems, the 2012/13 season, too, could end up in a mighty disaster for the Catalans.

2. The Defence

Tito Vilanova could regret his decision to not buy a centre back during the summer transfer window and instead, splurge A?19m on defensive midfielder in the form of Alex Song.

Even though Song isnai??i??t a poor signing, he was a luxury that Barcelona didnai??i??t need. The reason is that the Catalansai??i?? defence is currently in tatters. Carles Puyol is entering the twilight of his career, Gerard Pique is still struggling for form and Javier Mascherano often commits some silly mistakes that result in some adverse consequences for the team, the latest being the one against Real Madrid in the all-important Super Cup tie.

Added to that the full-back often leave Pique and Mascherano isolated at the back, thus making Barcelona easily vulnerable to counter-attacks. Keeping all these in mind, Barcelona shouldai??i??ve bought a defender in the summer and if the club are to produce a good season, some changes to the defence are needed.

Tito could sign a player like Dede in winter transfer window, but due to the clubai??i??s financial problems, it looks highly that any new player could be afforded this season.

Hence, the only option left is to give Marc Bartra more first-team opportunities. The 21-year-old has heavily impressed for the clubai??i??s reserve team and he surely has the potential of a commanding centre-back who could possible ease the clubai??i??s defensive worries to at least some extent.

3. Real Madrid

Barcelonaai??i??s biggest worry right now is perhaps Real Madrid. The latter is currently one of the best teams in the world and their win in the second leg of the Super Cup clearly justifies the somewhat bold claim.

Los Blancos were at their devastating best during the game, defending well, exploiting Barcelonaai??i??s weaknesses and not allowing the likes of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta their magical game.

In other words, Jose Mourinho has finally found a way to end Barcelonaai??i??s much-acclaimed tiki-taka playing style. Against Barcelona, the ai???Special Oneai??i?? often plays with a defensive-minded approach, looking to counter at every possible opportunity and putting pressure on Barcelonaai??i??s centre-backs and the error-prone Victor Valdez.

As a result, after years of humiliation, Real Madrid are finally starting to get the better of Barcelona. Their attack of Cristiano Ronaldo, Di Maria and Benzema has proved out to be too good for the Catalansai??i?? defence. The patient deep defensive line has started to even get the better of Lionel Messi.

Adding to that, itai??i??s not only Real Madridai??i??s performance against Barcelona, but also against other teams that could possibly threaten the Culesai??i?? chances of reclaiming the Spanish title. Even though Mourinho and Co. have already dropped five points this term, they have consistently performed well against the same teams over the past ten months, that have often troubled Barcelona.

Even though how Madrid perform against other opponents is not in the hands of Barcelona, the least the latter can do is find loopholes in Mourinhoai??i??s tactics and exploit them in the upcoming fixtures.

4. Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez

BarcelonaWith the chances of Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez being drained out by the gruelling and taxing fixtures list, it is important that Cesc Fabregas plays at his very best for Barcelona and be the midfield maestro for the team in the possible absence of his two seniors.

After a fabulous start to his Barcelona career, the Spaniardai??i??s form has substantially dropped and the 26-year-old is now hardly the player who forced Pep Guardiola to splurge out A?35m for his services last summer. Yes, he might have been playing somewhat out-of-position, but Fabreagasai??i?? overall game has shown a downturn and it is important the former Gunner star returns to top form sooner, rather than later.

Alongside with Cesc Fabregas, Pep Guardiola also signed Alexis Sanchez last summer for a fee of A?37.5m. However, like his transfer counterpart, Sanchez, too has been a mediocre player for Barcelona until now. The Chilean has so far been unable to produce the dazzling plays for the team and lately many have even started to question the youngster starting most of Barcelonaai??i??s games.

Yes, injuries might have plagued his blossoming Barcelona career, but the 23-year-old still doesnai??i??t seem as a player who fits into the tiki-taka playing style.

5. Lack of Support for Messi

So far, Barcelona have scored eight goals in La Liga. Out of them, Lionel Messi has scored four and Puyol, Pedro, Adriano and David Villa have scored the rest.

These stats clearly tell us the immense burden on Messi to produce the output in the final third for the team. Last season, the reason why Barcelona couldnai??i??t breach the walls of stubborn defences was the non-availability of a true poacher on the final third. David Villa was injured and Alexis Sanchez and Pedro were not able produce consistent performances.

However, with the return of Villa this season and Pedro finally finding his feet, one could surely hope that the two will be able to take some pressure off Messi.

Written by Guest AuthorAi??Surya Solanki

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5 Responses to “FC Barcelona : 5 Biggest Early-Season Concerns”

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  1. A Blaugrana says:

    It goes without saying that a CB must be bought in January. Most probably, Dede from Vasco Da Gama. He’s 6’4″ and is quite good. Moreover, integration of montoya and bartra is very important. They are the future. In Puyol’s absence I think Bartra should be played more in defense than Masche as we have Spartak, Granada, Sevilla and Benfica. With an 8-point advantage, I think players like Bartra, Montoya should be given full 90 mins at least against Granada (no disrespect to Granada though)
    Spartak can be dealt a little easily, but with the number of players rested against Getafe, I guess that not going to happen.
    However, the point is, Pique shouldn’t get his 5th yellow before the Clasico. And since the clasico is at home, it should be great to have an 8-point cushion. Hopefully it will be 11 after the clasico!

  2. Pale Paxton says:

    We really should have bought a proper centre back. Yes Song can play as a centreback though his experience in the position is very limited. He played a few games at Arsenal though he looked very unconvincing. We really needed a proper relatively experienced centreback. Dede is definately a good option. He is worth around 10-20 million and pretty much can prosper in this Barca squad. He adds height which Barca are sturggling for and his aerial presence will definately be comforted. We tend to concede alot of goals from set pieces. Why? Because we cannot match the height and the aerial presence to our rivals. Dede boosts our chances… Sakho is also an option and with T.Silva now in the squad, he will probably get limited time for PSG. He is young, very experienced and has good elements of a centre back. His passing is very poor though bringing him up in the Barca system will improve this element.
    Madrid have increasingly improved their game against us. No doubt though with their bad performances in the league, they may drop out of contention. Saying that, its early in the season and anything can happen (a reason why we should take every game serious…). Im worried about El Clasico. It seems like Mourniho has finally found out a way to defeat tika-taka and with no plan B, is there any chance of winning? A full, in form Barca against a full, inform Madrid, Barca will always win. I believe we can win against them. Its whether we turn out with our A game or not…
    Sanchez and Fabregas is a worry. Fabregas has clearly shown he doesn’t have the elements of being the next Xavi. His passing is sound and his physical movements are terrible. He can’t seem to work in tight spaces, which is definately a worry. When he plays as a CAM, he tends to make a lot of attacking runs, giving little options for Xavi to pass to. If he tends to make less of those runs, Barca can control every game better. Sanchez can’t seem to dribble or beat his man 1 v 1. This was an element of his game that he was known for when he played for Udinese though he can’t seem to do it with Barca. He sometimes works hard retriving back the ball. Overall his game is very sound and is disappionting for a Barca player. Im expecting better from him and a major improvement throuhout the season…

  3. Silwale Mulele says:

    I think its something which all players have experienced,so their peformance must be at their best.Puyol is lacking that much fitness,therefore every team which goes against the best team in the world find it easy to lock us up.Hope this problem will looked into so that we can stand firm continue to win more.

  4. Luis says:

    I would strongly dispute that Pique is off-form and that Mascherano is guilty of “silly mistakes” that often. All CBs make mistakes from time to time, but Pique is actually doing very well and Mascherano is usually a very solid player.

    You misspelled Victor Valdes’s name, too. You’re overstating how much Mou has “figured out” Barca – even over the last five matches it’s 2 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw – all by less than a goal mind you. If you reach back further it’s 4 Barca wins dating to the beginning of last season, 2 RM wins, and 2 draws.

    Cesc / Alexis is a concern of course but their lack of form is mainly overblown. The biggest worry is lack of depth past Pique and Mascherano, with Puyol an injury worry. That is the only one that really seems to be a threat. And it might not be, depending on if Bartra / Fontas or even Song / Abidal play well enough there. Mind you that Sergio Busquets can play CB too leaving Song or Jonathan Dos Santons or even Thiago to play DM.