Barcelona continue to win trophies with the Catalans lifting the European and Spanish Super Cups prior to the start of La Liga’s 2011-12 season. Barca will be favorites to repeat as champions for the obvious reasons such as the magic and goals of Lionel Messi as well as the familiarity of several of the starters with each other. In addition, Xavi’s and Andres Iniesta’s passing and movement have proven time and again to be critical for the club’s success.
Players such as Messi, Xavi and Iniesta have been playing together for many years creating a telepathic understanding between them. With the addition of talented players such as Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanches, Barca’s management has done well to add both depth and quality. However, there are a number of factors which could expose Barca’s weaknesses and prevent them from repeating as league champions. Below is a list of some of the important conditions which could influence the fate of the club’s title defense:
1) Defensive concerns: Barcelona’s back-line could be exposed if captain Carles Puyol suffers another injury ravaged season. Barca opted not to add quality at the centre-back position believing Argentina’s Javier Mascherano can continue to cover and operate effectively while Puyol is out. Even if Puyol is healthy, the Catalans will be fighting on several fronts and the lack of able substitutes could be costly. Another midfielder and Spain international Sergio Busquets has been used as a centre-back with injury concerns also involving the other defender Gerard Pique.
2) Injuries: Alexis Sanchez is likely to miss around two months after getting injured against Real Sociedad. Barca cannot afford to have injuries in certain positions as this leaves the club with just three recognized attackers: Messi, David Villa and Pedro.
3) Real Madrid: No one wants to beat Barcelona more than Jose Mourinho and the Portuguese coach might be one of the very capable of pulling it off. Mourinho might be unpopular to some due to his theatrics and actions but he is well capable of motivating his players and coming up with a strategy to restrict Barca’s key players. In the Spanish Super Cup, Real Madrid were suprisingly much more positive in their approach than many fans and pundits expected. With Cristiano Ronaldo as well as players such as Gonzalo Higuain, Kaka and Mesut Ozil, Los Blancos can be considered as serious contenders and will be looking to avenge last season’s humiliating defeat at the Camp Nou.
4) Fatigue: Key players such as Pique, Puyol, Daniel Alves, Iniesta, Xavi and Messi have been an integral part of the club’s success but at the same time this has meant that they have played in too many matches considering the Catalans have gone to the latter stages of the Champions League and the Copa del Rey on a regular basis. These added games, in addition to international friendlies and qualifiers, could take their toll on those stars as seen by the injuries suffered by Puyol and Iniesta, both of whom missed a chunk of matches in recent seasons.
5) Dropped Points against inferior teams: The 2-2 draw with Real Sociedad demonstrates that Barca can be caught off guard and they tend to struggle without Messi who was introduced for the last half an hour. Sociedad were not far from the relegation zone at the end of last season so they are not even considered as one of the better clubs in La Liga. Those are two precious points wasted by Barca in the duel with Real Madrid since Mourinho’s team was able to win. It is not a secret that the Spanish league has a considerable gap in quality between the top two sides and the rest of the league, so any points dropped against the smaller clubs could be costly at the end of the season.
Barcelona will definitely compete for the league title but distractions such as the Champions League and Real Madrid’s desperate attempts to dethrone the Catalans could turn this season into a testy one in La Liga. The acquisition of Fabregas is proving to be a wise decision with the former Arsenal skipper contributing a couple of goals early in the season. However, questions remain about the club’s defensive line and whether the management erred by not investing in a solid centre-back. There is also a concern at the limited options in attack with Sanchez sidelined and having little resting time for star player Messi.
All eyes will be on December 11th when the Catalans travel to Madrid to take on Real in one of the world’s most anticipated clashes. This match could lay the foundations for what is to come during the remainder of the season for both clubs. Barca will hope to come out on top to deal a severe mental blow to Mourinho and his team.
Please add a simple poll: Will Barca win La Liga title? Just options of yes or no. I’ve included the article below. I haven’t checked your email but will do tomorrow since I have 46 to go through. Have a good week.