Season Predictions!

Well, it’s another season—or if you think the Super Cups are preseason, then it is almost another season—and that means we can look forward to some 760 matches between this coming Friday when Malaga hosts Sevilla and the final match fixture some time in May. Or possibly June. Or it could be never since the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and the Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) continue to fight about money and authority. And maybe there’s some personal animosity between RFEF President Ángel María Villar and LFP President Javier Tebas that will get in the way of business “as usual” in Spain’s top flight.

Which, of course, is kind of the thing: we’ve recently learned what the schedule is until September 26, but that’s hardly enough to book tickets if you’re traveling in the winter or even if you live nearby and want to plan anything more than a few weeks ahead. So that’s nice. But leaving aside the tenuous nature of the Spanish football association’s tenuous grasp on calendars, we’re in for what could be a treat of a season. So, let’s have at it:

Isaiah’s predictions | Levon’s predictions | Kxevin’s predictions

Isaiah

This season is going to be full of mischief. I’m sure that 114 points will win it, but less than that and I don’t know. The reigning champions just got smashed 4-0 away to last year’s 7th placed team and then drew 1-1 at home. They’ll face off again in the first weekend in a match that will either lift the stormy clouds from over the Camp Nou or cause them to rain hellfire and maybe a few white handkerchiefs. After the first fixture of the season. Who are we, Arsenal fans? The other major movers and shakers in the league offloaded some talent (Miranda, Khedira) and brought in some others (Jackson Martinez, Mateo Kovacic); Sevilla beefed up on a lesser scale (Immobile, Krohn-Deli, Rami, among others), but are still looking stronger for their moves, while Valencia looks to be treading a little bit of water and may yet lose Otamendi this summer. Further down the table, Villarreal is hoping they got a bargain in 10 million euro man Roberto Soldado while possibly even further down Real Sociedad nabbed Jonathas and a couple of loanees. All the at the bottom (or probably, anyway), Las Palmas has spent just shy of 2 million euros, or enough to buy one of Arda Turan’s shoes. Preferably the one still on his foot rather than that wayward other one, but hey, Las Palmas might take that too.

Oh and Real Madrid also got Rafa Benitez, which is either brilliant or insane. I’m not sure yet, which maybe tells you something or maybe tells you nothing.

Champions: Barcelona

Title defenses are not easy, no matter if they seem it from this perspective, when I’ve assigned them a slew of victories (2 clasico wins!). They’re messy affairs and no doubt there will be ups and downs before some sort of rhythm is found and the team comes together for a final push through to the trophy. It’s not that they’re so much better than everyone else than it is that they are already most of a team with a style of play they are comfortable with; they shouldn’t have to settle quite as much as last year, though early season jitters are obviously going to play a factor in team selection from here on out.

Runners Up: Atletico de Madrid

There are lots of reason to put Atleti 3rd, including wondering how many matches they’ll last before some strange internal implosion causes Fernando Torres to literally split into pieces while he run down the field. Oh and also internal locker room issues could easily derail their season since Simeone is so intense. But then again, Simeone is so intense (and just a good coach) that that is just as likely to not happen and for them to contest every ball of every match all season long. I think they’ll beat Madrid twice again this year, which will go a long ways toward insuring Barcelona wins the title and vaults Atleti above their crosstown rivals again. A legitimate question is whether they can replace Arda Turan or if that hole in their midfield will cause them to unravel. Their preseason form suggests no, but that is not a great indicator of things to come.

Third: Real Madrid

Still directly into the Champions League, Madrid will probably be angry at the world for a while regardless. They’ve invested less than usual (or at least it feels that way—Kovacic puts their totals at over 80 million euros for the summer), but have upgraded at right back with Danilo, brought back Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez to fill their bench, and have nabbed up and coming players Marco Asensio and Jesus Vallejo, the latter of whom is staying on loan at Zaragoza through this season. What will matter more than personnel is whether the team buys into Rafa Benitez’s system and whether Rafa Benitez can find a system that he wants to stick with. His track record in La Liga is quite good, but it has been some years since he was the force he was in 2005. That is not to downplay Napoli’s Coppa Italia win or Chelsea’s Europa League win under his tutelage, but it is to suggest that winning La Liga this year would be an outrageous achievement in his first season. Even a decent run in the Champions League should be viewed positively given the institutional insanity and fan base expectations he must deal with. I doubt Ancelotti misses it at all.

Fourth: Sevilla

This squad is good. I think it’s going to put together a few serious runs throughout the season and they’ll end up qualifying for the Champions League. They may have given up 5 goals to Barcelona and 6 goals to Roma in their latest matches and they may have even lost to Brighton and Hove Albion on August 2 (1-0!), but they still looked rather impressive for long spells in the UEFA Super Cup (I didn’t watch the Roma match) and they should be force to be reckoned with, especially since I’m predicting…

Fifth: Valencia. Los Che are always good, but something doesn’t quite sit right with me this season.

  1. Athletic Bilbao
  2. Villarreal
  3. Real Sociedad
  4. Malaga
  5. Espanyol
  6. Getafe
  7. Celta Vigo
  8. Real Betis
  9. Sporting Gijon
  10. Levante
  11. Granada
  12. Rayo Vallecano
  13. Deportivo La Coruña
  14. Eibar
  15. Las Palmas

Pichichi: Cristiano Ronaldo (50)

Most Assists: Lionel Messi (30)

Most Goals (Team): Barcelona (112)

Fewest Goals (Team): Las Palmas (25)

Most Clean Sheets: Atletico Madrid (19)

Best Signing: Jackson Martinez

Worst Signing: Alvaro Negredo

 

Bonus Prediction!

Copa del Rey Champions: Real Madrid

 

Levon

Ever since this season’s Liga schedule has been released, Pep Guardiola’s 2009/10 squad has fluttered in and out of my mind. I’ve never been overtly nostalgic for el míster; indeed, the endless Pep comparisons of these last years were only trumped in tiresomeness by the almost equal amount of voices telling people to stop with the endless Pep comparisons. Nevertheless, 2009/10 has been on my mind as of late and as far as club achievements go, that grueling motherfucker of a season should be placed upon an olympic mountain.

Let’s be clear about one thing: no team can RE-treble three titles. Not going to happen and I don’t care if you have 25 Messi’s in your squad. To win everything, pick yourselves up and achieve even half of the previous season’s success is a remarkable accomplishment and in some ways even more impressive than the previously attained triplet of trophies.

So how did they do it? With new players who significantly changed the way the team played is how. The club brought in a striker who was unstoppable throughout the first half of the season in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Busquets and Pedro broke through the ranks, relegating an in his prime Yaya and a suddenly over the hill Henry to the bench. Victor Valdes had perhaps his best season ever and Abidal firmly established himself as one of the world’s top defenders. And let’s not forget that Messi, off the back of his first Ballon d’Or winning campaign somehow became even better that year.

Now we we are six years, or I should say four league titles, two copas and two champions league trophies later and, according to sound bites and press snippets, the team is still hungry. Whether that hunger will translate into glory remains to be seen. Unlike six years ago, there are no new players until January and during the first half of the season, the schedule is one of the most brutal in recent memory. The first seven matches are:

Athletic Bilbao, away

Malaga, at home

Atletico Madrid, away

Levante, home

Celta de Vigo, away

Las Palmas, home

Sevilla, away

If we make it through this stretch without dropping too many points, we still have to travel to the Bernabeu and the Mestalla. Of course, the advantage is that we play the return fixtures at home during the second half of the season. Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal will be cleared to play in January which shows a stretch of relatively easy fixtures (minus away at Espanyol) to gain rhythm, starting with a home game against Real Betis Balompié. Until then, Luis Enrique needs to rotate to keep his players from burning out. Fans the world over looked at our 0-4 loss in San Mamés last week and cried the squad that won a treble last year doesn’t have any depth….

Think about that last sentence…

Just because you lose a preseason game during which you start with seven tired squad players against a highly motivated opponent that scores every shot they take, does not mean that the team doesn’t have any depth. Rotate cleverly, and Rafinha, Bartra and Mathieu will do just fine. Pedro will probably still leave, but either one of Munir or Sandro might yet surprise you. Perhaps both. I won’t hold my hand in the fire for Sergi Roberto, but he did mostly fine in the games he played last year.

So here are my league predictions:

Winners

Not Barça. If you think all of the above matters, you’re wrong. There is not a burning chance in fire-loving hell that FC Barcelona can wear blue shorts and a Catalan flag-inspired shirt and win la Liga. Wearing blaugrana, Pedro gets a yellow card for trying to take the ball from a keeper who tried to hide it underneath his arms while lying in the back of his own goal. If you think referees are against us now, imagine with players dressed as esteladas. The shirts will bring the club more money than ever, but will cost the team points.

Runners up

Yeah, that would be us. Or third even. See all the above. But that’s okay. Our winter acquisitions will have six months of training to acclimatize, so if Luis Enrique paces his team just right, it might not be a league or domestic cup title that gets repeated…

Kxevin

The biggest struggle for Barça in 2015 will be to avoid relegation.

My heavens, the defense is letting in goals like Caga Tio poops presents, and the taxicab that little No. 10 kid is waiting for still hasn’t shown up, which in no way impedes his continuing to wait for it. And what in the unvarnished HELL is Xavi doing farting around on the right hand side of the pitch, and what has he done with Dani Alves? Because that dude over there defending like … well … a midfielder isn’t making anyone happy.

Making matters worse is that the team has all the depth of a puddle of worm piss, and no coach. On the up side, when Barça is relegated and Barça B wins promotion, the future will be able to kick the crap out of the past.

Ta daaaaa!

Okay, seriously. The buzzword for this season will be uncertainty. Everyone has gotten stronger, including Barça, a team that won 50 out of 60 matches last season. I can’t even begin to get a head around that one. And although there have been portents of doom prophesied by people proposing pre-season-parsed prognostications, it’s worth a look at what actually happened.

Last season, Barça’s pre-season was 4 matches, all in Europe. This pre-season found the team jetting around to the U.S., then to Georgia, then back to Spain to contest the SuperCopa, with only a weekend between matches. This is involving a team whose biggest stars had Copa America and the subsequent extended vacations in their legs, etc.

In other words, pre-season was something that the team was trying to survive, rather than thrive in. The SuperCopa brought giddiness and massive celebrations to Athletic Bilbao, and I am really happy for them, though seriously bummed that they didn’t bust out the barge.

But the uncertainty that manifested itself in a tie that culers were expecting to be a walk in the park will translate into a fraught Liga that will be won by the lowest points total since the 87 grabbed by the first (think about that … more than one treble winning side) treble-winning side. Four silly mistakes later, and the tie was effectively over.

That SuperCopa has no bearing on what is going to happen in the season, but the matches between Athletic and Sevilla demonstrate that there will be no walkovers among the Top 10 this year. Every team from La Real to Atleti has strengthened, with this latter having enjoyed the best transfer summer I have ever seen from a Liga side, maybe any side.

Two struggles will face Barça this season, in mileage and complacency. When Jeremy Mathieu looked at Aduriz get that ball in shooting position and couldn’t be arsed to move his ass to at least try, when Sergi Roberto gave up the turnover that resulted in an Athletic goal because Alves and Messi just stood there watching … Barça is a team that last season understood that work would bring success. Hard, unstinting work for every minute of the match for as long as it was in question.

The reason it is so difficult for teams to repeat is because everybody else is hungry, all hungrier than the defending champions. It’s unavoidable. If Barça can successfully keep from becoming complacent, a Liga repeat is conceivable. If they can’t, third place would not be out of the question.

Yes, third place. Why? Because Atleti has fixed all the problems that caused them to lay a massive goose egg against Barça last season, adding talents such as Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto. Oliver Torres is back, as is Filipe Luis, to fix their wing attacking weaknesses without detracting from other parts of the team. It is a formidable group that wouldn’t surprise anyone if it won Liga this season.

Expect Sevilla and Valencia to be nosing around the other European spots this season, but nobody else has really improved enough to challenge them. Real Madrid made its biggest summer signing in Rafa Benitez, a cold-hearted pragmatist who will do the things that his predecessor didn’t, such as rotation, rotation, rotation.

RM tailed off because key players started breaking. The losses of James Rodriguez and Luca Modric really damaged the team, along with the struggles of Gareth Bale and Ronaldo to find mutually compatible working space. Benitez will take care of all that, making the necessary moves to both vault his team up the standings and also shorten his tenure at the club, because nobody will like him when all is said and done.

Mileage is the other question, extra matches and travel that wear on a team’s legs. The biggest problem with Barça isn’t that it doesn’t have depth, but rather that the quality of its XI is so high. There has been lots of speculation about the team’s depth over this pre-season, but something that only a few have correctly sussed is that when you have the likes of Iniesta, Neymar, Messi and Suarez, not to mention Pique and Busquets, there isn’t a like-quality replacement period, much less one who would be happy sitting on the bench.

So yeah, things are going to tail off when Rafinha replaces Iniesta, just as they did when his brother replaced Xavi. Those are legends you’re talking about. Barça has depth. Barça also has a chasm in quality between the XI and the rest of the folks, players good enough to start for many a team in the world.

Barça has evinced a system this pre-season so far, which has served the team well when the stars have gone out or been unavailable. This was clearest against Sevilla and Chelsea, as subs came and went and the team played the same, something that will be important if Enrique is to use the same degree of rotation that found his team fresh at the business end of the season. Surviving until January will be huge.

In the transfer market the team has added Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, but neither player will be available until the transfer ban ends in January. If Barça can hang around until then, expect a stretch run that will be able to take full advantage of the things those players bring to the team, most notably high-quality depth. Taking out Iniesta and putting in Turan loses you that ultimate bit of magic, but his quality is still sufficiently high. Vidal is essentially a right-sided Alba, which creates all sorts of tactical possibilities and flourishes.

But tired legs break. Barça was incredibly lucky last season in the low number of injuries. Its XI was pretty much always available. There’s a lot more mileage in player legs, which will affect muscle flexibility and hydration. Injuries could be a problem this season, given all the travel and extra matches. That means injuries.

From this seat, none of the gloom and doom that is flying about in pre-season holds water. The injury question will be a larger worry. If Barça can stay relatively clean until January when the team gets significantly stronger with a pair of additions, the Liga is well within reach. But it’s so hard to see that happening. So let’s break it down:

Champion

Atletico de Madrid: They have been doing absolutely everything right, while their glamor-boy rivals have been acting like jet setters. Over the long haul of an intense Liga season, those fresher legs and an incredibly deep squad will make the difference. Atleti don’t have superstars, but the graph plot of their overall quality, position to position, is pretty much a Bayernesque flat line, rather than the shark’s tooth pattern that the Barça graph would represent.

Runner-up

FC Barcelona: A couple of key injuries will turn those wins of last season into the draws of this season. The team will see more buses, more teams’ absolute best games and more difficulties. On the up side, I think that Barça will be the first team in a long time to repeat as Champions League winner, so be consoled by that.

The other thing I wonder about is the Capita, nothing against Iniesta. Puyol did things like stop players from dancing after goals, yelled at teammates to focus, etc. He was a strong captain who took no guff. Would Messi have neck-grabbed that Roma player, would Pique have speculated about his defecatory habits to an official with Puyol around? No. Little things like that can, over the course of the season, make a difference. Something to watch.

Second runner-up

Real Madrid: They have added depth, but not difference-making talent. Their potentially biggest transfer, Rafa Benitez, will allow them to hit the ground running but breaking in a new coach in an environment like that won’t be the best thing. It could all change at the first glimpse of a pouting superstar. There is also the Benzema vs Ronaldo complexity, because 9 is the best spot for Ronaldo these days, from my view, with Bale unleashed and Rodriguez as well. If Benitez can manage to do that successfully, they could win the Liga.

Finally …

The culerverse is in pretty desperate shape right now. There are even some who are pleased that Barça didn’t win the SuperCopa because Guardiola’s team was better, and now has the sextuple to prove it. But I would stack Enrique’s treble team against Guardiola’s any day of the week, and twice on Wednesdays.

Guardiola’s innovation meant that his team stomped the terra of a world that wasn’t ready for it, and that was a huge help. As the world got its mind around what that machine did, things became a bit more complex. Enrique’s team exists in a world that had figured out Guardiola’s Barça attack. It is also a team that isn’t playing all that differently than the first treble side, despite the protests of the theoreticians.

Getting it done against a world that knows and is ready for you to the tune of 50 wins from 60 matches is astounding. This pre-season, hot on the heels of the Copa America, was always going to be fraught. That first treble side battled a UEFA Super Cup played in Monaco, against Shakhtar. It was only the quality of the opponent that saved that team’s blushes, as Shakhtar gave all that Barça could handle, particularly coming off the demands of the Confederations Cup. But ultimately they lacked that last little bit of quality.

There was a week between Spanish SuperCopa legs, rather than two days. I quipped that Enrique’s team won the Treble Nobody Was Ready For, an observation more rueful than mirthful. Nobody trusts this Barça, and more’s the pity.

The team’s finish this season, rather than reflecting its quality and any shortcomings, will be more reflective of the fact that every team in football that could improve, felt it absolutely had to so that Barça wouldn’t kick its butt again this season.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

23 Comments

  1. luisthebeast
    August 21, 2015

    For La Liga i will wait until January to see if we can win it.But for CL yes i am sure we can win it again:-)

  2. mr.undercover
    August 21, 2015

    Great prediction! I think we have our chances to reclaim laliga as atletico have new players to adapt, but if we are to take Simeoni’s comment into consideration then the league would be beyound our reach.

  3. Tata2
    August 21, 2015

    The squad is thin, let’s just settle for UCL and Copa Del rey. We could push for la liga again next season

    • barca96
      August 22, 2015

      We should always fight for every title but I hope we are still in the race for the league in January. CL involves a lot of luck so you should always go all out. Copa del Rey is the least important but it’s still something.

      I hope Lucho rests the key players as much as possible in the early stages of the Copa so that the key players get as much rest as possible as we will only get reinforcements in January (Turan and Vidal). We’ve lost Pedro and Xavi, 2 supersubs. Therefore it is vital to rest the key players in easy matches in Copa so as they won’t get to rest much in the 1st half of the season.

      The drop in quality from the starters to the bench are even bigger now. We’ve gone from Xavi and Pedro to Sergi Roberto to Munir (shudder). So the bench players now should get as much time as possible to play to gain experience and in the Copa matches it should be mostly be bench players and B team players. Rest is key in the 1st half of the season.

  4. Inamess
    August 21, 2015

    Don’t agree with the pessimism of some of these prognostications. We are favorites to win the league for a reason: we have the best squad with the best players and won a treble last year. Losing Xavi, Pedro, and Pique for the first four games makes our squad a bit thin but remember we only have to play for the most part a game per week until January, when our two signings will give us much needed reinforcement for the decisive games of the year.
    Some clear things to look for :
    1) Rafinha is now #12 for a reason because now he is the 12th most important player on our squad as he is now first choice back up winger and midfielder.
    2) Atletico away in the third week should be a signature game and could be a stumbling block should we put in a bad showing.
    3) Iniesta has been inconsistent and injury prone for a while. As first captain he really needs to have a productive and healthy year.
    4) Pique outburst and red card showed absolute stupidity. Now we know why the team doesn’t consider him worthy of a captaincy yet. It is his responsibility to come back and show the seriousness and leadership that the team needs.

  5. barca96
    August 22, 2015

    I wrote this comment at the time when Kxevin released the Masiaflation article. For some reason I couldn’t comment. Don’t know what the problem was and then it just wasn’t relevant anymore but now since it’s relevant again, I’ll just copy paste it from my notes.

    Gerard Gumbau: Nope. No way. He just isn’t good enough, and it seems that Enrique wanted him on this U.S. tour to make his mind up fully in that regard. But ya gotta play somebody in a friendly, so why not Gumbau? The idea that Enrique prefers him to Samper is laughable, and not just because they’re different players. For the first team, Enrique would prefer neither of them. But Samper will be back with Barça after he leaves. Not Gumbau.

    This does not make sense. Why even play a player who you know won’t make it and in turn leave out a player(s) that does have the potential in the first team? How are the talented ones going to improve if they don’t get to train with the first team and play? Your reasoning just doesn’t make any sense.

    That was the original comment and this is an add on because a piece of news came out that made the comment above relevant again.

    Official: Sandro will from now on wear shirt number “19” (instead of 16), B players Gumbau and Camara will wear “28” and “27” and [2/2] Squad (vs Athletic): Rakitic, Iniesta, Sergi Roberto, Gumbau, Camara, Rafinha, Munir, Messi, Suarez, Sandro

    So…. it looks like Lucho has made his mind up. Mind boggling to say the least.

    I don’t know what it is about now both with Lucho and the board, with regards to the direction of the club. Doesn’t Lucho see the talents in Grimaldo, Samper, Adama? Deadweight Adriano as a 3rd or 4th choice back up over Grimaldo who we should groom. Gumbau over Samper? Munir over Adama?

    Or is this the board’s plan to keep the talented ones away from the first team? If they are sitting on the bench they might lose value so the club makes less money when they want to sell the player so it’s better to keep the talented ones in the B team where they are playing and gaining value.

    In any case, the job of the B team is to groom the players for the first team, not to sell them nor to ignore the talented ones and in the end selling them!

    I just can’t fathom this. And our future doesn’t bright either. The squad is aging, we don’ buy or perhaps even target young players and worst of all we don’t groom youngsters anymore, at least the right ones.

    Have a look at Atletico and Madrid. They are both stacked with young talent ready for the next step while we are renewing Adriano who is one match away from another injury.

  6. barca96
    August 22, 2015

    Villarreal are interested in Denis Suarez (21), who plays on loan at Sevilla. Barcelona are willing to let him move on loan. [as]

    I wouldn’t mind him moving from Sevilla. Competition is too tough for him, it kinda defeats the purpose of the loan as he needs playing time. It shouldn’t be guaranteed but at least it should be easier competition for him. Otherwise he might as well just come back and fight with Rafinha and Sergi Roberto.

  7. luisthebeast
    August 22, 2015

    Against a Segund B team and Samper in defense is so weak.Now i understand Lucho.Btw i cant understand why some people dont stop supporting Barca.When Pep is back u can be fans again.

    • barca96
      August 22, 2015

      Firstly, Samper is not a DM. He is a deep lying CM. He is not supposed to be a Busi back up.

      Secondly, why should people stop supporting Barca? What does it even have to do with Pep?

  8. luisthebeast
    August 22, 2015

    If a player is top talent he will play in every team.Like Oliver Torres.If Suarez or Halilovic or every of our loanies dont play,it s not someone else s problem.

  9. Lord Eddard Stark, a.k.a. BrichimbrodvÖken, the Vulnerable One!
    August 22, 2015

    .

    I am usually good with predictions.
    Last year when Suarez was signed, although I didn’t like that barca signed him.. I opined strongly then. That Suarez will win us the champions league. And boy, did he deliver.

    His goals against city, PSG, EE and juve were all instrumental in us winning big time silver..

    Anyway..now onto 2016..
    Let’s be clear about one thing.
    Barca will NOT win LA liga this year. Primarily because they will not be allowed to.. Yeah yea you are all probably dismissing these nonsense conspiracy theories.. But conspiracy or not.. EE will be handed huge help constantly through the course of this season.

    Recall 2011-12 when barca clearly were the best team in Europe..but were not allowed to win liga for the fourth consecutive time..

    I remember numerous handballs calls against us.
    I remember messi suspensions.
    I remember countless legitimate penalties NOT awarded to us.
    And I remember numerous penalties generously gifted to EE .. Mostly when they were losing..

    So yes be prepared to relinquish laliga. I do hope that atleti win it. But it is going to super difficult for anyone not named EE to win LA liga.

    As for other competitions and predictions.. It really is unpredictable. In cl we do have the squad to win it.. But when has that been sufficient. If injuries, luck and draws are favorable to us.. Its hard to see anyone wrestling cl away from us..

    As for CDR.. Well.. Who cares. Make it a one legged competition damn it.

  10. Davour
    August 23, 2015

    The feeling coming out of pre-season is that La Liga will be a challenge. Not because of the results during pre, but because I have a feeling that we will be less blessed with injuries and suspensions (already without Piqué), and although the level of this team is the world’s highest, it will be hard to maintain with a squad that is not too solid. Sandro and Rafinha could of course rocket in their development, but I don’t think so. The treacherous games away to lesser teams with a defensive mind to resist the champions will take its toll.

    In CL, however, it might be easier to induce bursts of the highest level when required; we will surely make it through the group stage, and then Arda and Vidal will, hopefully, bring some respite, inspiration and hunger next year, ready to face the finals.

    It would be foolish to even dream of another treble; a consecutive CL, I – and I hope the team – think, is the primary target this year. That’s enough to make history and a reasonable aim for a year with a treble-hangover.

  11. mr.undercover
    August 23, 2015

    Watched Athletico’s match yesterday and no body cought my attention except Oliver Torres! It seems the loan did him very good in his development , no pressure from media or a demanding fan base like ours! Oliver is still isn’t the complete article but he would reach his potential gradually with time and would be a great asset for athletico this season, samper’s situation is a different kettle of fish from Oliver’s , I would take samper any day any time if am asked to choose between the two, but samper now needs more time to develop! In athletico there is no xavi , iniesta or besquet, for Oliver to worry, contrarily to samper’s condition here, a loan could have been a good solution.

  12. Jim
    August 23, 2015

    My favourite time of the season. Worry hasn’t set in with the results yet and you can predict what you like. I went back to have a look at the same article from last year. I’ve included a bit from my effort in quotes because I reckon it wasn’t far off the mark and some of the same questions keep coming up……. ( current thoughts on last year’s thoughts – if you see what I mean) in brackets.

    ” Well, I won’t be asking any of the mods for the names of their sports psychologists, anyway ! 🙂

    Every season for at least the last three the prediction is more or less no trophies. If the players thought like that we’d be as well giving this season the swerve and starting again next.

    I’d like to ask where exactly we are meant to fall down. To me the glass is more than half full and even almost drained last year we came within an ace of a couple of major pieces of silverware.

    For me on the positive side

    We have height and pace at the back for the first time in ages. (Still true)
    We have more pace in our midfield which looks like it will be run by Iniesta. Just watch him go in this role. ( Prob still true but Rakitic a lot slower and less influential than I thought – didn’t expect a lot from Rafinha)
    We have a forward line that every club in the world would swap us theirs for – yes including them. ( couldn’t believe the doubters last year. This was obvious)
    We have a much bigger squad in real terms and remember how much that played a part.. ( less so with Xavi, Pedro gone)
    We have the prospect of being able to call on a completely fresh Xavi and don’t underestimate that. Poor lad has been totally overplayed for the last five seasons. He looks refreshed already. ( Hmm, if we’d used him more in the second half of the season he’d still be here.)

    Negatives
    We will still have to face packed defences. Nothing will change there. ( Still holds)
    We will have to wait till about November to see Suarez match fit. Can we get the early results to be in the right place at that time? ( no longer applies)

    Known unknowns (with apologies)
    Is LE really going to be any good as a man manager – I’m fairly sure he is a motivator which tbf Tata never looked like. Just stamping on people won’t work with this squad.
    Can we build a reliable CB partnership? My own pref would be Pique and Mathieu but competition is good. The only bad thing would be if we arrive in October without a recognised first pairing. You need CBs who understand each other and how to position and readjust quickly.
    Can we adjust our tactics so we are not caught short of numbers at the back? This is really a wider unknown of how astute LE is going to be at adjusting during matches.
    Will we see much of the young ones? Easy answer ? If they’re good enough. They won’t be played for the sake of it and in the last couple of seasons most haven’t been.

    For me, I’ll be surprised if we don’t lift one of the big ones. Not fussy which. I have a feeling RM are going to be tempted to play more football this year and they really aren’t set up for that.”

    I reckon that wasn’t bad going for an amateur Nostradamus. Which leads me to the fact that I haven’t a clue this year.

    We still have the best forward line in world football by a mile but we did well last year with injuries and can’t hope for the same. Our subs there are a step down from Pedro.

    There are signs we’ve lost our discipline at the back in terms of ensuring sufficient numbers back and we still , imo, don’t have a consistent pairing. TV could come into the equation though which would be useful.

    Which brings me to the midfield. Not a weak area as such but not a strength we can fall back on if in bother and for me if the midfield isn’t hacking it the biggest problem is that Messi immediately falls deep, leaving him a lot to do to be on the end of balls as well.

    My final worry is still LE. Has he learned from the mistakes he made last year ? I don’t agree, for different reasons with his rating of some players ( Mathieu, Rafinha, Rakitic, Gumbau and Samper. ) and I worry that he is trying to build a much more physical squad which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    So, sticking a pin into my crystal ball ( is that a mixed metaphor? Not sure. ) I reckon we’re gonna miss out on the big two and LE will depart at the end of an acrimonious season though he may surprise me by continuing to adapt his thinking.

    There I’ve said it ! On with the season.

  13. Davour
    August 23, 2015

    First half does not really decrease one’s worry… Alves injured, Messi misses a penalty (does not bode well for the up-coming ones? The keeper goes early, look up, Leo!), Rafinha… who?, Rakitic, to me, does not step up enough, Iniesta can’t find space… but Masch is dominating, Vermealen looks decent, Roberto did well so far, Suarez a few nice touches but should have handed the ball back to Messi after that chip, Alba (we missed you), Busquets looks great, Messi had a few nice moments but lacks the divine touch… Bravo stable enough. Ok. On to the second half!

    • Davour
      August 23, 2015

      Phew… managed one of THOSE victories, without playing well. Messi does not look fully fit yet, but gave glimpses of his old self with a few runs a through-balls. It will come. If Rafinha will be an asset, I feel it will have to be in the midfield; he does not handle the wing well, but did produce some better moves when dropping deeper. Alba proved why he was missed, and Suarez poached like a good fellow.

      But the man of the match must be Roberto! He put in a very fine display; if he keeps that up, we will not miss an injured Alves too much. Busquets, however, is another matter. Let’s pray he is not badly hurt.

      But all in all: victory in a very tough game! Very happy about that, hoping the team will work its way into functioning more smoothly.

  14. TITO
    August 23, 2015

    Well, thats what fit Verm brings to the team.

    • Davour
      August 23, 2015

      Yup. Good timing, since he was not really needed last year, anyway. But now he showed promise to become our third choice. Mathieu, beware!

  15. Kd
    August 23, 2015

    Well I only managed to catch the 2nd half, so here are my thoughts:
    Sergi Roberto, wow!! Did not expect that at all. I felt Bartra would ahve been good at that position but Sergi did extremely well for someone who isn’t a full back or even a defender for that matter. And he is deceptively quick. Nice!!
    Rafinha was impressive in some moments. He seems like a confidence player. If some of the things he’s trying works out, his game improves markedly. Seems like LE’s faith in him may not be misplaced after all.
    Vermaelen was always a good defender, just that he’s been unfortunate with injury. Didn’t seem to have too much confidence on the ball but did pretty good overall.
    It was a hard fought victory, we grinded out a result. We just needed to keep taking points and basically hit top gear Feb onwards. Lets hope we keep ourselves injury free.

  16. Davour
    August 23, 2015

    After watching parts of Sporting-EE, I believe we should be rather pleased. Messi was not the only superstar who had a night off, to put it mildly… they did not look sharp at all, losing possession on numerous occasions, misplacing passes and lacked timing in their runs. I’m sure they missed Benzema now…

  17. Tata2
    August 23, 2015

    Meanwhile its still early days and ATM are also legit la liga candidates but EE just dropped points at Gijon

  18. ciaran
    August 23, 2015

    Solid if unspectacular, and exactly what was needed.
    Sergi Roberto was great at right back, I would guess the best individual performance by a right back in our colours so far this season.
    Vermaelen showed what he could give us also but his positioning when we are in possession is something that needs to be improved, he was always too central and too close to others.
    Welcome back Alba.

  19. Barcathegreatestever
    August 25, 2015

    I haven’t posted predictions before but I always think Barca are favorites for any competition with Messi in his prime! I think La Ligas winner will do it with the least amount of points as can be recalled in recent history. The whole league is so much better at defending after being destroyed by Barca and Real for the last many years. The Ref argument is real but the home team Real Madrid still has to perform and I believe they are overall more burnt out than Barca with Benitez not helping their moral any. Suarez still has a new players hunger and he might always have it. Neymar has his legacy to build and our defense has the same potential as last year and deeper. Iniesta is showing he is invigorated out of Xavi’s shadow. If we are alive in all competitions in January when we get a new injection of competitive fever and there’s no reason to think otherwise, Messi will bring it all home. Barca three peat! is very possible, anything less will be down to circumstance. Full of appreciation for this team just being in this position.

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