For all the talk of the economic levers, the precarious financial situation, the uncertainty of registering new players, Frenkie De Jong, it was refreshing to see Barcelona focus on matters on the pitch on Saturday. Manager, Xavi heads into this season with huge expectations on the pitch as they try to wrest domestic dominance away from bitter rivals, Real Madrid and try to return to the top of European football, having not won the Champions League since 2015.
The likes of Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie, Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, and Jules Kounde have been signed, while there is talk of Marcos Alonso going to Camp Nou, once the next financial solution is activated. Against Rayo on Saturday, Busquets played alongside Gavi and Pedri, two supremely gifted individuals heralded as the future of the club and the Spanish national team, and while there was a lot of control as highlighted by their 67% possession, they struggled to really penetrate a very stubborn low-block Rayo side.
Barcelona are in a transition period in terms of players, but Xavi quickly needs to settle on a preferred eleven, as it would help him understand their strengths and help them gel with one another. That would be hard though because he needs to keep his players. There are at least two quality players per position, and despite his status as club legend, Xavi, before in his managerial career, has not been faced with the prospect of keeping 25 players happy, and it would be a big task to keep players not starting on his side.
The likes of De Jong, Fati, Aubameyang, Sergi Roberto, and Kessie all came on, but the team looked disjointed, with Raphinha in particular struggling despite an excellent preseason while Lewandowski was shackled all through 90 minutes, a reminder that La Liga defenders will not give him the freedom of the city he often enjoyed at stadiums in Germany. Despite the club president not talking about it, there’s a certain level of expectations around Camp Nou this season.
Xavi needs to hit the ground running, or else questions will be asked. The first step is to get his starting 11.
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