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Barcelona 2023/24 season preview: Squad update, key players, critical fixtures, expectations



Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

As the sun-drenched days of summer begin to slowly wane, a palpable air of anticipation envelops the iconic Olímpic Lluís Companys Stadium in the heart of Barcelona.

FC Barcelona stands on the cusp of a new chapter, with a great deal of expectation riding on the team. The stage is set, the players are poised, and the city of Barcelona pulses with energy radiating in abundance.

The Blaugrana, after a disappointing 2021/22 campaign, turned things around last time out. In what was Xavi’s first full season in charge as manager, Barcelona went on to win the La Liga title and the Spanish Super Cup, ending the club’s recent trophy drought.

And, now having lost some familiar faces and boosted with some new arrivals, Barça head into the 2023/24 campaign, in the hope of defending their La Liga crown while aiming to add more trophies, in particular the elusive UEFA Champions League.

Squad updates

Barcelona have been a hub of activity this summer, as the club managed to secure a number of signings while also lightening the wage bill with some notable departures.

After helping Manchester City win a historic treble last season, Ilkay Gundogan joined the Catalan club on a free transfer. Inigo Martinez, who also signed as a free agent, arrives to offer experience in the Blaugrana backline.

Furthermore, Vitor Roque was signed for a fee of around €40 million but is expected to join the Blaugranes in January. Finally, Oriol Romeu was signed for a meager €3.4 million and will serve as Sergio Busquets’ replacement in the defensive midfield department.

Barcelona bid a host of players farewell this summer, with Joan Laporta escorting a number of players to the exit door.

Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were the first to conclude their chapters in Catalonia, while Ousmane Dembele signed for PSG, only earlier today. Franck Kessie has also departed for Saudi Arabia.

No longer at the club. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Nico Gonzalez completed a move to Porto, Samuel Umtiti’s contract was terminated and Alex Collado completed a free transfer to Real Betis. Meanwhile, Julian Araujo and Pablo Torre went out on loan to develop further.

Crucial fixtures

Having tasted the nectar of victory, the reigning La Liga champions are not content to rest on their laurels. With aspirations of securing the title once more, Barcelona will be wary of the formidable opposition they will encounter on their way to the finish line.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid

The two La Liga giants are scheduled to collide on the 29th of October and then on the 21st of April. Real Madrid are considered one of the biggest threats to Barça in the forthcoming campaign.

Last season, Barcelona and Real Madrid enjoyed a win each while facing off in the league campaign, with both teams finding success at their respective home stadiums.

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone’s men have always proven to be a tough nut to crack, and they will once again pose some difficulties to the Catalans.

Atletico Madrid and Barcelona will lock horns on the 3rd of December, with the second match set to be played on the 17th of March. Last season, Barcelona won both their encounters against the Rojiblancos 1-0.

Barcelona vs Real Sociedad

Barca faces Imanol Alguacil’s men on November 5th and then finally on May 12th in the second half of the season.

Real Sociedad concluded the 2022/23 league season with a fourth-place finish in La Liga. As such, they are not expected to make it easy for Barcelona in their quest to retain the title.

Last season, the Basque side lost the first game against Barcelona by a whopping 4-1 score but emerged victorious 2-1 in the reverse fixture, after the league title had already been decided.

Key players


Key cog. (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Spanish sensation is already the pulse of Xavi’s system, dictating play for the Blaugranas at the tender age of 20. Pedri provides the perfect blend between prolonged control and directness, in line with Xavi’s philosophy, who has extracted the prodigy’s more fearless facets.

Provider of the penultimate pass, Pedri’s creativity goes under the radar frequently because of his seemingly low assist numbers, but the accuracy and consistency of his passes create openings out of thin air. In this season, his creativity and ability to control varying game states will once again be relied upon.

Frenkie de Jong

After being used as a stopgap in unfavored zones and nearly being sold by the club last summer, Xavi’s decision to let Frenkie de Jong fly again last season ignited an incredible resurgence from the former Ajax man.

In a double pivot role next to a holding midfielder, the 25-year-old is not only utilised as a box-to-box profile; but is also able to control games from deep, while simultaneously progressing plays via both carrying and passing.

He is capable of managing the game’s tempo, yet he can also blitz through lines to impose verticality. Frenkie was recently named one of Barcelona’s four captains, and the player’s newfound importance in the squad can be seen whenever he steps out on the pitch.

Robert Lewandowski

Despite Father Time being known to spare no one, Robert Lewandowski is still going strong. The Polish talisman arrived with hefty expectations last summer and certainly lived up to the hype, having propelled Barcelona to a league title and securing the Pichichi trophy in the process.

As Barcelona’s focal source of goals, he will be tasked with getting the most out of a large chunk of opportunities in the final third.

Lewandowski’s lethal finishing in the first half of the campaign last season was something to marvel at, but fatigue began to creep up on him after the World Cup. Until Vitor Roque arrives in January, Lewandowski will be heavily relied upon.

Youth players to watch out

Barcelona, a club renowned for its indelible impact on the world of football, embraces a philosophy that breathes life into its very essence: a steadfast belief in the nurturing of youth.

The Catalans are once again blessed with a bundle of talented young players heading into the season who will be worth watching closely.

Lamine Yamal

The next big thing. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Lamine Yamal’s incredible trajectory has stirred endless comparisons with legendary figures from Barcelona’s past. Despite a long road ahead of him, Yamal oozes maturity beyond his years.

The Moroccan prospect enjoyed a stellar pre-season, as his performance versus Tottenham in the Joan Gamper Trophy particularly dropped jaws.

The 16-year-old still has to build up his body, but both technically and cognitively, he is exceedingly advanced in his development.

His dribbling and ability to pick out the correct passes have been labeled as his biggest strengths, and Xavi will be keen to see him grow, especially with Dembele leaving a vacancy on the right wing.

Fermin Lopez

Fermin Lopez is another one of La Masia’s crown jewels, and took spectators’ breath away in the pre-season. The 20-year-old made his impact most notably against Real Madrid in Arlington, Texas.

As if his golazo wasn’t enough insult to injury, he continued to make a mockery of Madrid’s defense with an incredible lobbed assist for Ferran Torres. He capped off his incredible pre-season with an assist against Tottenham.

Taking on Pedri’s spot, the torchbearer worked his socks off to ensure fluidity. Numerous players, including Pedri, Alejandro Balde, Sergi Roberto, and others, praised Fermin Lopez in public. The 20-year-old justified his place in front of 82,000 spectators in a Clásico.

Challenges for Xavi

One of the biggest hurdles for Xavi will be effectively managing the game time of his star-studded squad. With injuries being one of the major contributors to the Catalans’ European defeats last season, ensuring fatigue does not derail an entire campaign will be important.

The likes of Pedri and Andreas Christensen suffered injuries in crucial phases of the season, and their absence was simply a consequence of excessive playtime.

Barcelona are set to face taxing schedules, and with the news of La Liga referees implementing the same added time system used in the Qatar World Cup, it will be common to see extensions of more than 10 minutes in each game.

As Barcelona have bolstered their squad with new additions, the newfound depth will have to be utilized.

Plenty of challenges for Xavi to overcome. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

In addition to suffering from injuries, Barcelona fell prey to psychological lapses on the grand European stages last season. Lack of direction from the veterans and an increasingly young squad led to Barca losing their bearings when setbacks struck.

Xavi will face the gargantuan task of solving these mental shortcomings, with the team not always collapsing in the event of an unexpected blow.

After signing experienced players like Ilkay Gundogan, Oriol Romeu, and Inigo Martinez, Barça have potentially addressed this issue already.

Season Objectives

Barcelona managed to erase their trophy drought last season with the Spanish Supercup and La Liga titles. However, moving forward, expectations are bound to rise.

The previous two terms have proven to be a stain on the club’s image in terms of European success.

Successive demotions to the Europa League are never a good look, and following Barcelona’s domestic triumphs, it is expected that the Blaugranas turn their ailing fortunes around once and for all in the Champions League.

Barcelona will have a relatively easier group now that they are champions of Spain, which places them in POT 1. Looking to capitalize on this opportunity, Barça will be expected to at least make it to the quarterfinals or semi-finals of the Champions League.

Retaining their throne in La Liga and Spanish Super Cup will certainly be one of the prerequisites for the Catalan giants.

Even so, this time, success in the Copa del Rey will also be expected, with the club faltering in this competition for the last two years since Lionel Messi departed.

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