Barcelona had a split season last year. Complete domination in the league but a disappointing campaign in both major cups. Dumped out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich and being left without answers against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey. The season was also largely dominated by the absence of Tito Vilanova as he continued his fight against cancer.
The summer transfer window started with the arrival of Neymar to Catalonia for a reported €57 million fee and Thiago Alcântara, David Villa and Andreu Fontàs heading in the opposite direction. But perhaps the most important move of the summer has been Gerardo "Tata" Martino being installed as head coach. The coach brought in from Newell's Old Boys is facing a real challenge this season, having no European experience but a healthy respect from all within football.
With continuing speculation sprouting from the British press, Cesc Fàbregas' future will remain in question until the transfer window shuts but President Sandro Rosell has promised one more big name arrival, which is likely to be a central defender.
Despite Atéltico's best attempts last season, the league is likely to be a two horse race between Barça and Real Madrid. Madrid, who are also under new management in the form of Carlo Ancelotti, have strengthened well, signing Isco, Asier Illarramendi, Daniel Carvajal and Casemiro while Tottenham winger Gareth Bale is odds-on to join. Meaning Los Blancos are in good position to put up a better fight then they did last season under José Mourinho. At the time of writing bookmakers have Barcelona as narrow favourites to retain their title.
Barcelona have so far had a relatively comfortable pre-season having won two out of four matches by a healthy scoreline, with just a 2-0 defeat against a full strength Bayern Munich and 2-2 draw against Lechia Gdansk. Real Madrid too have warmed up in style, beating Bournemouth 6-0, PSG 1-0, LA Galaxy 3-1 Everton 2-1 while drawing 2-2 against Olympique Lyon. Journalist Graham Hunter tweeted about how the upcoming battle between the two giants will be the most refreshing for a long time and you're inclined to agree with him. While the years under both Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova have been a joy for any Barça fan it will be interesting to see how an outsider does at the helm of the club and Madrid have found the antidote to the toxic air left by Mourinho in Ancelotti.
A realistic expectation is Barcelona are good enough to beat Madrid to the title but a Madrid win is not out of the question by any means.
The Copa del Rey is arguably the third most important trophy for Barcelona but having been knocked out of the competition last season without much of a fight, the players will be eager to win back the cup and besides a trophy is a trophy. If the draw is right it will likely be a Barça - Real final and a one-off match between the two can't be predicted. Nevertheless Tata Martino in his first season will be hoping to win his first King's Cup.
The Champions League is the most respected and sought after club competition in the world and Barcelona as always will be one of the main contenders. Bayern Munich last season dominated their way to cup glory and with Pep Guardiola joining the German side it is hard to look past them as favourites. But as Chelsea showed, sometimes the favourites don't win and Barcelona will be looking to capitalise on this philosophy. As the season progresses it will be more clear on who has a real chance of winning the competition but for now a realistic expectation is to see Barcelona at least as semi-finalists if not winners of the trophy.
So another season of success looks in the offing but with a new manger and a new superstar, anything can happen.