If there is one dream team that could come as close to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, the closest any would come is Johan Cruyff’s 1992 Barcelona, a dream team that provided a sight to behold for anyone with Barcelona tickets at Camp Nou.
Ronald Koeman was at the back line and behind every set piece of this legendary XI, whose legendary status afforded him a bit more time in his bittersweet tenure at his very own club as manager. Sadly, nothing substantial manifested.
Since, the ball has been passed onto yet another legend of Catalan fame, Xavi Hernandez. A contingency set of purchases along the line of Dutch striker Memphis Depay from Lyon, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang on free, and Luuk de Jong, yet another Dutch striker from Sevilla, got Xavi-ball up and running.
Relegation to the Europa League was unavoidable despite the fluid, easy-on-the-eye one-touch football beginning to take shape at the Catalan capital last year. Yet, so much belief surrounded the project, given the nature of how the club’s football was beginning to look.
However, Barcelona crashed out of the Europa League, losing to Frankfurt in a controversy-laden semifinal 2nd leg, at a loud and raucous Camp Nou, with the Frankfurt whites outnumbering the Barca stripes at the historic venue.
The Catalans have looked much more potent this season. They are very much in contention to bring the La Liga title back to Camp Nou, a once-familiar and familiar sight to those with Barcelona tickets, now requiring an outstretched reach.
With a host of new transfers, Xavi Hernandez has amassed a battalion of players who have been playing eye-catching football. Robert Lewandowski is already up to double figures in the goals column, Ousmane Dembele is playing at his best form since joining the La Liga giants, and Gavi has amassed both the Golden Boy Award and the Kopa Trophy. Promising signs for the once-threatening outfit.
However, Champions League aspirations were again squandered this season as Inter Milan’s crucial win at the San Siro proved one too many to overturn the Catalan side in their favour. Barcelona fell short of the mark as they finished in 3rd place in their UEFA Champions League group and now battle it out with the Europa League group stage runners-up for a spot in the UEL knockouts.
Bar the winless games against Inter and Real, Barca has looked particularly composed and threatening this season, the latest of which was the encounters against Athletic Club and former UEL winners Villareal, as both games amassed an aggregate of 7-0 in favour of the Catalan side.
This has eased the scrutiny on Xavi, who was much under the radar following Barca’s UCL exit. Speaking to Mundo Deportivio, Barca midfielder Frank Kessie was vocal in support of his boss.
He mentioned the team had shown some real character and strength to show up domestically despite the trying times in European competitions. He quickly credits his boss Xavi and the backroom staff at the club.
Frank Kessie has had little play-time since his move from the San Siro to Catalonia. With only part of his lessened playing time credited to injury, doubts had risen over the players’ state in the dressing room. Even very few unused players like Kessie are still on-board with Xavi, which is a good sign for Barcelona in the coming times.
From a Blaugrana perspective, what got the fans with Barcelona tickets thinking is the change in formation in the game against Athletic Club. Compared to his usual 3, Xavi Hernandez started with 4 in midfield: Pablo Gavi, Sergio Busquets, Pedri Gonzalez and Frenkie de Jong, with the front 2 of Robert Lewandowski and Ousmane Dembele leading the pack.
Pedri occasionally drifted out onto the left wing as required, but the heat map mainly was in midfield for the 2020/21 Kopa Trophy Winner.
Xavi was particularly pleased with the outcome. He stated that the game was highly vibrant with rhythm and intensity. He added that he foresaw Athletic Club’s high line of attack, leading him to reinforce the midfield. The manager was particularly delighted about the solidity in attack and defence, humbly crediting that the added man in midfield was crucial in extracting such heroics off his players.
Arguably Barcelona’s most clinical performance of the season, whether the manager will continue his change in formation across upcoming games is something you will be curious about if you are one with Barcelona tickets.
One of the lucrative messiahs signed on the back of Neymar’s revolutionary 222 million transfer; the French forward failed to rack up any performances that lived up to his potential for a large part of his first contract. With all the drama surrounding his contract renewal at the Catalan capital put to bed, Dembele has taken the field with renewed energy this season.
The loudest cheer of the game was reserved for the forward. Those with Barcelona tickets stood in awe amid raucous applause as Dembele was subbed off following his 3 assists and a goal at Athletic Club. Scoring for the first time off a header for the Catalans, he set up Robert Lewandowski, Sergi Roberto and Ferran Torres to net it home as Barcelona won 4-0.
Though Xavi stated that the forward still has more work to do on his decision-making, doubts about Dembele’s quality upfront have been put to bed –at least for the time being.
The Catalan club has been in the heat of the last three transfer windows, with signings coming and leaving hot and fast amid one of the most turbulent times for the club. With another drop to the Europa League, Barcelona is expected to be at the frontline of the upcoming transfer market.
According to Diaro Sports, an Ajax midfielder has been among the latest to come under the radar of the Barcelona scouts. With club captain Sergio Busquets’ powers progressively waning, Alvarez is looked at as an apt replacement to fill in the legendary midfielder’s shoes.
Wolves captain Ruben Neves is yet another option Barcelona are looking at. When asked about a potential move to Camp Nou, Neves responded, “I mean, who wouldn’t want to”.
With both above moves said to take a significant hit on the club’s financial status above 50 million Euros, Enzo Fernandes also looks like a very potent budget option for Barcelona.
With Barcelona’s champions league exit set to take a hefty hit on the club’s financial estimations, the club might be forced to offload players in the upcoming winter window. Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets are likely at the top of the chopping list, along with the club’s highest wage earner Frenkie de Jong.
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