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FC Barcelona: Selecting The Best XI From Pre-Season

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Utilising the Barca Blaugranes Community Player Ratings, I've compiled Barcelona's best XI from pre-season, complete with a seven-man bench -- just in case head coach Gerardo Martino needs some ideas...

I'll give you a clue -- this guy starts in attack...
I'll give you a clue -- this guy starts in attack...
Chris McGrath

With just days remaining before Barcelona’s season opening La Liga match against Levante at the Camp Nou, many Culés are wondering what surprises – if any – new coach Gerardo Martino has up his sleeve. In pre-season, Martino has remained relatively cautious tactically speaking, reintroducing a few older, forgotten or perhaps neglected principles such as a high-line of pressing, and combining these tried-and-tested principles with a few of his own.

Now, the Blaugrana are expected to counter-attack with a little more intensity and arguably the most notable change of all surrounds Barcelona’s structure when defending corners and other set-piece opportunities. Tito Vilanova’s emphasis and reliance on zonal marking has been cast aside in favour of a more traditional man-marking system – which is arguably a hybrid of the two philosophies.

Still, the 4-3-3 remains and for all intents and purposes, the line-up has remained relatively unchanged – and the few changes that have occurred were expected, the prime example being the integration of superstar Brazilian forward Neymar into Barça’s attacking triumvirate.

However, after six pre-season matches, Gerardo Martino may feel as though a change is required, if not through necessity (i.e. through injury) then simply for the sake of it. Many believe that Barcelona have become complacent in recent seasons, and a little uncertainty, selection-wise, could provide the squad with the wake-up call they need to once again challenge on multiple fronts.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to take a look at the Barça Blaugranes Community Player Ratings for Pre-Season, and relay our best 18-man squad to you, the readers who voted after each match. Who knows, maybe this could be Martino’s squad for Barcelona’s opening La Liga fixture against Levante on Sunday...

Victor Valdés 6.33
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos6.6
Rating vs Thailand6.3
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.1

Victor Valdés enters this, his final season with FC Barcelona, hoping to add a record sixth Zamora trophy to his already bursting trophy cabinet, not to mention a seventh La Liga winners’ medal. After so many years of loyal service, it seems strange that a number of Culés are still hesitant about the Catalan keeper; although perhaps understandable given his desire to leave the club in less than a year’s time. In his three pre-season appearances, Valdés appeared as reliable as ever – even if he did concede a couple of goals.

Adriano 6.78
Rating vs Bayern6.7
Rating vs Valerenga6.8
Rating vs Lechia6.2
Rating vs Santos7.7
Rating vs Thailand7.3
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.0

Fighting off competition from his compatriot and close friend Dani Alves, Adriano was somewhat surprisingly rated as Barça’s best full-back in pre-season – and as a result earns himself a starting berth at right-back in this XI. Adriano technically considers himself to be most comfortable on the left, but one gets the feeling that he would jump at the chance to start on either side of defense; provided that he stays injury-free, this could be a very productive season for the ambidextrous full-back.

Gerard Piqué 6.67
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos7.0
Rating vs Thailand6.6
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.4

With an average rating of 6.67, Gerard Piqué was the pick of the Barcelona centre-backs – although you and I both know that that’s hardly a compliment nowadays. Regardless of that, Piqué’s pre-season was at least encouraging and if Barça/Gerardo Martino can decide upon a regular partner for the elegant Catalan defender, then the sky truly is the limit.

Javier Mascherano 6.10
Rating vs Bayern4.8
Rating vs Valerenga6.9
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos7.0
Rating vs Thailand6.4
Rating vs Malaysia XI5.4

With an average rating of 6.10, anyone would think that Barcelona need to sign a new centre-half...perhaps it’s too soon to jump to conclusions about Mascherano’s form, but it’s clear to see from the opinion of the Barça Blaugranes community that El Jefecito needs to improve if he wishes to retain his place in the starting XI. At the moment, he’s partnering Piqué almost by default – Bartra is too raw and Puyol is too injured – and for a club of this calibre, well it’s simply not good enough.

Jordi Alba 6.73
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos7.7
Rating vs Thailand6.5
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.0

Arguably one of the best signings of the Sandro Rosell era, Jordi Alba’s debut season back at the Camp Nou with FC Barcelona was simply tremendous. He added an extra dimension to the Blaugrana attack and defensively, he was good enough to hold his own with the majority of opposition wingers; given his average rating of 6.73 from pre-season, it appears as though we can expect more of the same this season from Alba.

Sergio Busquets 6.70
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos7.3
Rating vs Thailand6.8
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.0

Used relatively sparingly by Gerardo Martino, Sergio Busquets didn’t really see enough game-time to "dominate" as he usually does; instead he took his time to slowly work his way back to match fitness and secure his place in the starting XI. After all, it’s a long season – especially for an important international such as Busquets.

Cesc Fàbregas 7.80
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos8.5
Rating vs Thailand7.4
Rating vs Malaysia XI7.5

While Fàbregas was forced off in Barcelona’s final pre-season fixture against the Malaysia XI, Cesc was arguably one of the best players of pre-season – out-playing Barça legend Xavi Hernández, at least according to the ratings given by the Barça Blaugranes Community. Shrugging off speculation linking him with a move back to the Premier League and to Manchester United, Fàbregas will now have his sights set on securing a guaranteed place in Barcelona’s starting XI.

Andrés Iniesta 7.10
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos7.8
Rating vs Thailand6.8
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.7

Iniesta started pre-season brightly with an impressive performance against Santos in the Joan Gamper Trophy before a couple of "subdued" displays lowered his average rating to a (very respectable) 7.10 for pre-season. Barring an injury, Iniesta remains one of Barça’s most important players and should thrive in Martino’s slightly more "direct" system.

Pedro 7.80
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos7.6
Rating vs Thailand8.0
Rating vs Malaysia XIN/A

In just two matches, Pedro Rodriguez left a lasting impression on Culés across the globe, tying Cesc Fàbregas with the second-highest average rating for pre-season. His hat-trick against Thailand brought back memories of yesteryear, when Pedro was a universally-feared winger capable of changing and winning any and every match he was part of – even if he faces stiff competition for a starting berth from both Alexis Sánchez and Cristian Tello, Pedro will be keen to leave his mark on this season.

Lionel Messi 7.84
Rating vs Bayern6.1
Rating vs Valerenga8.7
Rating vs Lechia7.5
Rating vs Santos8.5
Rating vs Thailand8.4
Rating vs Malaysia XIN/A

Leading the team once again with an average rating of 7.84, Lionel Messi is still as dangerous as ever, even if his pre-season got off to a slow start against Bayern Munich. In that match Messi showed flashes of excellence, but faded towards half-time – and his pre-season preparations ended on a similarly "disappointing" note, as the Argentine maestro picked up another thigh injury. The question is: will he be fit to start against Levante on Sunday?

Neymar 7.60
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs Lechia7.0
Rating vs Santos7.7
Rating vs Thailand8.1
Rating vs Malaysia XI7.6

Signed for €57 million, Neymar is currently the ninth most expensive transfer of all-time and Barcelona are hoping that the 21 year-old will prove to be better value for money than Barça’s last "mega-signing", Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Staggeringly, the transfers of both Edinson Cavani and Falcao mean that Neymar wasn’t even the most expensive signing of the summer – but I’m willing to bet that he’ll be one of the best. Talented yet hard-working, determined and ambitious, Neymar is the perfect fit for this club – and his pre-season average rating of 7.60 is hopefully just a sign of things to come.

Jose Manuel Pinto 6.22
Rating vs Bayern6.3
Rating vs Valerenga7.0
Rating vs Lechia4.9
Rating vs Santos7.3
Rating vs Thailand6.3
Rating vs Malaysia XI5.5

Pinto was one of the few first-team players to feature in each of Barcelona’s six pre-season matches, and performed relatively well, living up to expectations as Barça’s back-up keeper in what could be his last season with the club.

Martin Montoya 5.95
Rating vs Bayern4.4
Rating vs Valerenga6.9
Rating vs Lechia5.9
Rating vs Santos7.0
Rating vs Thailand6.1
Rating vs Malaysia XI5.4

Martin Montoya is another that featured in every one of those six friendlies, although unlike Pinto, Montoya didn’t really live up to expectations. Starting out against Franck Ribery must have been tough, but the talented young full-back never fully recovered with a string of inconsistent performances – and as a result, will be firmly behind Dani Alves on the pecking order.

Dani Alves 6.57
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos7.5
Rating vs Thailand6.6
Rating vs Malaysia XI5.6

That being said, Alves doesn’t even make this starting XI – his average rating of 6.57 is only good enough for a place amongst the substitutes. In spite of this, Alves will likely retain his place as Barcelona’s first-choice right-back, all the while knowing that he still has room for improvement.

Sergi Roberto 6.90
Rating vs Bayern6.3
Rating vs Valerenga8.2
Rating vs Lechia7.5
Rating vs Santos7.1
Rating vs Thailand7.0
Rating vs Malaysia XI5.3

Sergi Roberto fought off Alex Song to claim the last midfielder berth, and will be looking to do the same across the season. His energy and drive from the centre of the park was new, it was fresh and it worked magnificently. After a pre-season like this, the Camp Nou crowd will be expecting big things from this talented midfielder.

Xavi 6.63
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos7.4
Rating vs Thailand6.5
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.0

Another veteran that finds himself on the bench in this squad is Xavi Hernández, who is set to captain the team in Carles Puyol’s continued absence. Perhaps his average rating of just 6.63 is a little unfair, but it does signal that Xavi – as great as he might be – might be headed for a slightly reduced role in the centre of midfield this upcoming season.

Cristian Tello 6.23
Rating vs Bayern6.0
Rating vs Valerenga7.9
Rating vs Lechia5.6
Rating vs SantosN/A
Rating vs ThailandN/A
Rating vs Malaysia XI5.4

Tello actually finished pre-season with a lower average rating than Jean-Marie Dongou, but as Dongou is registered to the B team, the final place in the squad falls to the latest Spanish debutant. The fleet-footed winger set-up a goal and played the full 90 minutes for Spain on Wednesday, and will be hoping for another solid season to hopefully secure his place in Vicente del Bosque’s World Cup squad (provided Spain qualify of course).

Alexis Sánchez 7.08
Rating vs Bayern5.1
Rating vs Valerenga8.4
Rating vs Lechia7.2
Rating vs Santos8.4
Rating vs Thailand7.3
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.1

Tipped as one of Barcelona’s best players over the course of pre-season, Alexis Sánchez’ average rating was surprisingly low – he couldn’t even crack into the "top five". While it’s true that Pedro looked great in his two appearances, it was Alexis Sánchez who put in the hard yards, earning what should have been a place in the starting XI with a string of impressive attacking displays.

Gerardo Martino 7.17
Rating vs BayernN/A
Rating vs ValerengaN/A
Rating vs LechiaN/A
Rating vs Santos8.1
Rating vs Thailand7.3
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.1

Delaying his "debut" until the fourth match of pre-season, new Barça coach Gerardo Martino has won over the fans by leading the team to a few encouraging performances in his three matches in charge. The Joan Gamper Trophy demolition of Santos was arguably one of the best Barcelona performances in recent memories – and we owe it all to Martino’s principles. Can we sustain that level of performance against superior opposition, and over the course of the season?

Note: Jordi Roura took charge of the first three matches, with an average rating of 5.90


The Team 7.23
Rating vs Bayern5.6
Rating vs Valerenga8.4
Rating vs Lechia6.2
Rating vs Santos8.6
Rating vs Thailand7.9
Rating vs Malaysia XI6.7

Four wins, one draw and a solitary defeat; pre-season could have gone better, but it could have gone worse. In the aftermath of Tito Vilanova’s shock resignation, it probably should have been worse too – but testament to the players and Martino’s management, we ended pre-season on an encouraging note. At our best, we should be a match for anyone – it’s merely a question of whether we will perform at our best on a consistent enough basis to challenge for silverware.

THE REST

Jean-Marie Dongou – 6.53
Oier Olazábal – 6.33
Frank Bagnack – 6.07
Alex Song – 5.98
Jonathan dos Santos – 5.80
Marc Bartra – 5.63
Sergi Gomez – 5.20