As the sun of the new season rises on Catalonia, one rekindles the memories of Barcelona’s last campaign. Labelled a team in transition, one could not place an equation on what would be considered a successful season for the team.
With the Supercopa de Espana and La Liga titles in the bag, however, the Blaugranas announced their return to the big stage. A year later, they are now rightfully the favourites on multiple fronts.
The objectives for the 2023/24 campaign will be steeper, more gruelling and more demanding for the men in garnet-and-white. The Champions League, in that regard, is one competition they would like to settle their scores in.
Sunday night marks the start of Barcelona’s latest chapter as they take on Jose Bordalas’ Getafe at Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
The Catalans have suffered against Getafe in recent meetings, especially given the hosts’ frustrating low block. They have only netted one goal against Bordalas’ side in their last three meetings, and have a score to settle tomorrow night.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Getafe vs Barcelona.
The title defence begins
Barcelona’s 2022/23 La Liga title was celebrated like none other. After all, it meant an awful lot to the players and management to get across the line during a time when the club is going through its worst period financially.
The Catalans not just won the league last season but did so with conviction. They registered a ten-point lead over arch-rivals Real Madrid and won a stunning 28 of their 38 league games.
As the defending champions of Spain, the spotlight will be on Barcelona to assess how they approach their title defence. Needless to say, it will be far from easy.
For starters, Barcelona will play away from home all season. The Spotify Camp Nou is currently under large-scale renovations, forcing the Blaugrana to adopt the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys as their foster fortress for a year.
Moreover, with players like Ousmane Dembele and Franck Kessie no longer around, the equation will be tricky for Xavi. They play their first game of the season on the road against a difficult opponent, but it is clear that they must start off on the right foot.
Can Barcelona’s defence carry the momentum?
The biggest storyline of Barcelona’s 2022/23 campaign was their rock-solid defence as they conceded just 20 goals in 38 La Liga appearances, equalling the league’s best-ever record. However, the centre-back department has been a topic of worry in recent weeks.
Christensen was injured in Barcelona’s preseason Clasico and even missed the Joan Gamper game through the same. If the Dane’s absence was not concerning enough, Ronald Araujo asked to be substituted early into the clash against Tottenham through discomfort.
Both players are expected to be fit for the season opener, although it remains to be seen in Xavi opts to exercise caution over their reintroduction.
Another element of worry in the Blaugrana defence is the right-back position. Joan Laporta & co. have been on the lookout for a new signing in the department for a long time now, but their search has borne no fruit, yet, although it could change soon.
With no natural and trusted right-back option available for Getafe, it remains to be seen how Xavi manages the situation. Jules Kounde could cover the position once again tomorrow night, but there is always the possibility that the manager shifts to a three-man defence and eliminates the need for a right-back.
Choosing the right setup
Xavi’s biggest dilemma ahead of the curtain-raiser is the midfield department. After all, there is no end to the riches he enjoys in the position.
To begin with, it will be interesting to see if the coach opts to use a 4-3-3 setup with a fourth midfielder on the left wing (as used last season) or with a pure winger down the flank.
While fielding Gavi in the advanced false-winger role last season reaped good results, it significantly reduced the verticality of Barcelona’s play. The team appeared dependent on the right-winger to lead counters and create chances, thereby limiting the width of the formation.
Having players like Ez Abde and Ansu Fati at his disposal now, Xavi could well opt to field three midfielders and three pure attackers on the night.
Then arises the question of the starting players in the middle of the park. At first glance, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Ilkay Gundogan would appear to be the undisputed trio.
Yet, one knows the importance of Oriol Romeu on the field and the freedom the new signing’s presence gives the likes of de Jong.
Will the manager deploy Gundogan, Pedri, Romeu and De Jong at the cost of an attacker? Or will one be dropped for a natural attacker? If so, who? Xavi has several questions to answer at Coliseum Alfonso Perez.