The Blaugrana’s main objective this season will again be to try and win the Champions League and they’ve made some big signings this summer
Barcelona are Spain‘s reigning champions but have plenty to prove after collapsing against Liverpool in last season’s Champions League semi-finals and then falling against Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.
The Catalans have brought in stars Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong so that coach Ernesto Valverde can shake up his side and attack the new campaign with fresh vigour and a more exciting style. They are also hoping to bring Neymar back to the Camp Nou after two years away at Paris Saint-Germain.
Few would deny Barcelona are favourites to win the Spanish title again but Diego Simeone’s rejuvenated Atletico Madrid have also impressed in pre-season and Valverde’s side need to hit the ground running.
They kick off the league season at Athletic Bilbao on Friday at the San Mames, an instant test for a new-look Barcelona side.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world – certainly among those who play the ball out from the back – and there is no doubt whatsoever that he is the first choice for Barcelona this season.
Jasper Cillessen played brilliantly for the club when called upon and could not displace the German, heading to Valencia this summer with Neto moving the other way.
The Brazilian – who is undergoing surgery on a wrist fracture – will feature in Copa del Rey games when fit but, barring a serious injury to Ter Stegen, will largely get a front row seat on the bench for Barcelona’s campaign.
Ter Stegen has impressed from day one and has now eradicated mistakes from his game – despite playing in a daring, impressive way, not afraid to beat attackers pressing him when he has the ball at his feet.
Only Gerard Pique can be sure of a starting spot in the defence this season, with the other three roles up for grabs.
At the start of the season it seems Jordi Alba will play left-back with Nelson Semedo on the right, while it’s a coin toss between Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet alongside Pique at the heart of the back-line.
It took Valverde a while but finally the coach appears to be convinced by Portuguese right-back Semedo.
Sergi Roberto has been told he can play in midfield this season, with Moussa Wague promoted to the first team to rival Semedo for the right-back spot.
However, when the going gets tough it wouldn’t be a shock to see Valverde drop Sergi Roberto back into the defence again, even if he will largely try to avoid doing so.
Umtiti and Lenglet have played virtually equal minutes in pre-season (249 and 225, respectively), with Valverde giving few clues away over who will be first choice when both are fit.
Junior Firpo has been brought in from Real Betis to provide competition for Alba, and while he will start the season as a reserve, the spot is there for him to win if he’s good enough.
Barcelona have far too many midfielders on the books and will spend the…