Five reasons Barcelona can win the Champions League
AFP · 12 Sep 2016, 08:54
Published: 12 Sep 2016 08:54 GMT+02:00
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1. The 'MSN'
Blessed with three South American maestros in Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, Barcelona possess the most potent attack in world football in the 'MSN'.
Suarez won the European golden boot last season with 59 goals, while Messi is the reigning World Player of the Year.
Neymar, who finished third on the Ballon d'Or podium, has returned from Brazil with a gold medal in the Rio Olympics and appears even more settled in the Catalan capital after agreeing a new long-term contract with the club.
On top of their individual qualities, the almost telepathic relationship between the three has made Barça an almost unbeatable force in the past two years with a combined 253 goals in leading Barça to back-to-back La Liga and Copa del Rey doubles.
2. Deeper squad
Although Barça didn't continue down the Galactico route, they did spend wisely in the summer transfer market.
Last season Luis Enrique's men ran out of steam in April, with elimination at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals part of four defeats in five games.
This year Enrique has a deeper and younger squad to call on having added a fourth quality forward in Valencia's Paco Alcacer to the signings of Andre Gomes, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne, Denis Suarez and Jasper Cillessen.
3. No Club World Cup
One of the major reasons why no side has managed to retain the Champions League since AC Milan 26 years ago is the tiredness caused by the travel involved mid-season for FIFA's Club World Cup jamboree.
Barça's heavy schedule was burdened by a trip to Japan at the end of 2015 where they beat River Plate in the final.
Although they did not suffer an immediate slump the accumulated fatigue took its toll in the final months of the season as they crashed out the Champions League and nearly gifted La Liga to Real Madrid.
4. A partner for Pique?
In Umtiti, Barcelona may have found the defender they have been seeking for the best part of a decade.
Whilst Javier Mascherano has proved an able companion alongside Gerard Pique in Barcelona's Champions League wins in 2011 and 2015, the new signing from Lyon already looks like he could be the perfect companion for the Spaniard.
Umtiti is aggressive, quick, and often looking to combat danger high up the pitch which suits Barcelona's style and also allows Pique to focus on building the play from the back.
5. Goalkeeper debate settled
While Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen's battle for position may have kept both goalkeepers continually on their toes, the division of labour also meant the German came into Champions League games cold for the past two seasons.
Bravo was the man in charge between the sticks in La Liga with Ter Stegen utilised in the Copa del Rey and in Europe.
Now with Bravo sold to Manchester City, Ter Stegen is Barça's undoubted number one.
Signed for his incredible ball-playing ability, Ter Stegen set a La Liga record for number of passes completed against Athletic Bilbao two weeks ago and the understanding needed between him and the defence given his unique style will only improve with more game time.
By Kieran Canning