Football Club Barcelona is a club which is expected to win the UEFA Champions League (UCL) every year. Anything less than winning every trophy available is considered to be an unsuccessful season (especially with Real winning the UCL thrice, consecutively). Likewise, the past three seasons have been disappointing.
They haven’t made it past the quarter-finals three times in a row now. To call the performance bad is an understatement for a club with standards like Barcelona’s. The previous three seasons have been disastrous.
If Barcelona want to rise again and win the UCL, changes must be put into effect. Relying on Lionel Messi and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to bail them out, won’t work. It’s time Barcelona step up their game, because that’s what they do. That’s what they’re supposed to do.
Here are 5 things Barcelona should do to bring the UCL trophy back to Camp Nou.
1 Efficient squad rotation and balanced squad depth
Barcelona is a team full of world-class players, with multiple stars like Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, Marc Andre Ter Stegen, who can almost single-handedly change the game. Seeing them put in insane performances week in and week out, makes us forget how human they are. In a long season, where fixtures start piling up when we reach the knockout stages of the UCL, fatigue cannot be evaded. It always will catch up.
In times like this, squad rotation and squad depth are vital. Teams need to make sure their star players stay fresh for the important matches, and that’s a challenge. However, for a team like Barcelona, it is necessary that they continue to win games in the domestic league and cup while having their key players rested. That’s why squad depth is important. For Barcelona to win the UCL, an all-star starting XI won’t do the trick; a strong and well-balanced 23 man squad will do.
FC Barcelona appear to achieve the latter with the return of Rafinha, who impressed in his loan spell at Inter. The signing of Clement Lenglet — who was sensational for Sevilla at the back, and the 21-year-old prodigy Arthur Melo — who has received appreciation for his performances which resemble that of the legendary Andrés Iniesta, will also prove beneficial for the team. Moreover, if various reports are to be believed, Barcelona will make a few more good signings which will bolster their squad.
#2 Stick to their style
Barcelona has reached great heights through different styles in recent years — the positional play under Guardiola, or the lightning quick counterattacks under Luis Enrique. These two styles are noticeably different, but have one thing in common: Barcelona, as a whole, look to attack and score. Under Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona was having great success being solid in the back, and pressing high up the field to make quick attacking transitions to score.
This was going great until the second quarter-final against Roma, with Ernesto opting to use defensive tactics to win the tie. It was one of the most un-Barca like performances ever, with long unsuccessful balls and the entire team in their half trying to defend the first leg lead.
It backfired massively, as Roma pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the UCL. This was ironic since Barcelona had punished PSG for using the same defensive tactics the previous season.
That was a massive debacle by Ernesto, who had committed few mistakes until that match. It seems like Ernesto did learn from his mistakes, as Barcelona tore apart Sevilla 5-1 in the Copa final. If Barcelona will be looking to win the UCL, Ernesto needs to make sure he trusts the Barça style.
3 Prepare Ousmane for the big stage
In the second leg against Roma, it seemed that Barcelona missed a quick winger who can get behind the opponent backline.
Ousmane Dembele didn’t have the best time of his life last season. Injured twice, he only got to play a few matches until the end of the season. He was underplayed because he wasn’t prepared, having been injured for 6.5 months. However, the world knows Ousmane has got the quality to tear apart defenses. Quick feet, insane acceleration, the absence of a ‘weak foot’, and a keen understanding of Barcelona’s famous one-twos — he’s got it all.
This time, he has time too. He has changed his diet and work ethic, so he should be fit unless something really unfortunate happens. The knockout stages don’t start until February.
If Ousmane is mentored and allowed to develop right, Barcelona will have one huge boost towards winning the UCL.
Sort out the striker problems
Barcelona has two strikers in their arsenal — one is the young Paco Alcacer, and another is the only person to have beaten Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, twice for the golden boot. Yet, he was only a faint shadow of his brilliant past last season. If Barcelona is to win the UCL, the team simply can’t have a misfiring striker leading the attack. Luis Suarez needs to step up.
Maybe the absence of Neymar’s creativity affected him or it might have been Barcelona’s defensive approach. Either way, there won’t be the two excuses this season. Philippe Coutinho can create chances like Neymar, perhaps better chances than his Brazilian compatriot. This season, Barcelona don’t look like they’re going to play defensive, as Ernesto Valverde has learnt from his mistakes.
The stage is set. It’s time for Luis Suarez to show why he was once regarded as the best striker on the planet.
#5 Let Coutinho take control
Lionel Messi is one of the greatest players on the planet. However, there’s only so much Messi can do. There will be times when even Leo will fail to perform, and more often than not, these matches cost Barcelona the game. It’s time for Barcelona to win the game without relying on Leo.
Dependence on him is not bad. However, over-dependence is not good. If there’s one man who is experienced enough and can control the game apart from Leo, it’s Phil. In their only league loss against Levante, Phil Coutinho single-handedly almost saved Barcelona from losing, by scoring a hattrick to bring the score from 1-5 to 4-5. Unfortunately for him, the chances he created were not put into the back of the net by his teammates.
Luis Suarez needs chances to feed on, and Ousmane is still young and inexperienced. So, when Leo isn’t in his top gear, Phil should take control and drive Barcelona.