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Five Tactical Issues For Luis Enrique

The La Liga will commence on the 24th of this month and Barcelona will try to reclaim their position at the helm of the Spanish league after their worst season in seven years.

Alex Caparros

Tata Martino left The Nou Camp by mutual consent in the summer, paving the way for former Barcelona star Luis Enrique to return to the club in managerial capacity on a two-year contract.

However, as Barcelona look to make a major overhaul of the playing structure, here are five tactical issues that Enrique needs to address.

Who Will Be the Goalkeeper?

Victor Valdes did not to renew his contract with Barcelona and left the club after the end of last season, while the 32-year-old’s deputy, Jose Manuel Pinto was released by the Catalans.

To replace the duo, Barcelona brought in Marc-Andre ter Stegen from Borussia Monchenglabach for €12 million and Chile international Cluadio Bravo for €11 million. With Jordi Masip having signed his first professional contract which will keep him at Barcelona till the summer of 2017 last month, Enrique has three talented goalkeepers at his disposal.

Bravo has spoken about this severe competition and how that the manager is undecided who the first-choice ‘keeper will be for the upcoming term.

The Chilean stated: "The competition is healthy though and one has to be as best prepared as possible to help the team. I think we all have the same chance to start. I don’t know who will start. But I think we always have to be prepared to play even if we aren’t number one."

Bravo further added that he does not feel Enrique will be able to rotate his goalkeepers like he did at Barcelona B.

It is likely to come down to Bravo or ter Stegen. Masip is hopeful of getting a chance to play to first-team football, but he is likely to be used as a reserve ‘keeper as he himself is content with getting "some minutes" on the pitch. The 25-year-old had a spectacular season with Barcelona B but does not have the faith of the Barcelona hierarchy.

Bravo’s howler versus Napoli in the friendly is unlikely to deter his chances of being Barcelona’s No, 1, with Enrique labeling it is as a "small error". Yet, I believe ter Stegen looks like the favorite to be Barcelona firs-choice goalkeeper.

The 22-year-old is young, confident, good with the ball at his feet and an excellent shot-stopper. He has already learned the native language and both Bravo and Masip have been surprised by the quality of the Germany international.

Enrique may initially rotate his ‘keepers before making a decision, with the second-choice ‘keeper getting to play in the Spanish Cup.

Dani Alves or Martin Montoya?

Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado is set to join Manchester United for a reported fee of €45 million. Barcelona were heavily linked with Cuadrado but were reluctant to meet the financial demands of the player and his employers.

So, for now, Martin Montoya and Daniel Alves will battle for the right-back slot under Enrique.

After holding talks with the club, Alves has decided to stay for another year.

"Alves is a Barcelona player and a very good one," Enrique said at a press conference.

"I know him well and for now he is with Barcelona. I am delighted with his presence in the team."

However, Montoya offers more defensive stability, making him the likely starter if Barcelona use a back-four. Alternatively, if the Catalan club deploy a three-man defense, with two wing-backs, Montoya could stake a claim as the right-center-back, with Alves pushing out on the flanks. However, if Montoya is told to go upfront and provide the width, with the two holding midfielders covering for him, Alves may not be needed and another midfielder could be roped in instead of the former Sevilla man to add more creativity to the system.

Montoya is statistically a better player than Alves and signed his contract extension in March only after his agent, Jose Maria Orobitg, had given an ultimatum to Barcelona to give more first-team opportunities to the young Spaniard.

"For the moment he is under contract…however, the contract extension has still not arrived," he said.

"We have talked but there is no certainty that Martin Montoya would hold down a first-team spot, because right now Daniel Alves closes the door. The transfer window is closed, but I can tell you that the contract extension may not be successful."

That Montoya renewed his contract later on means Barcelona must have assured him a spot in the starting XI.

To change the formation or not

Recently, a special report by Goal claimed that Enrique might make 3-2-3-2 Barcelona’s prime formation.

"Luis Enrique is Barca through and through and he likes 4-3-3," a 'source close to the Catalan club' told Goal."But he also appreciates a number of other systems and he won't be afraid to mix it up. The 3-2-3-2 idea is similar to 3-5-2 and it's one of the alternatives he has in mind - but it's more about how the players work than the system itself."

The 3-2-3-2 will help accommodate the trio of Suarez, Neymar and Messi in the same set-up and at the same time, ensure defensive solidity. In addition, various media outlets in Spain have reported a switch to the 4-3-1-2 may occur, with Messi playing in the hole behind Neymar and Suarez.

Nonetheless, the two formations will be tried only after Suarez returns from his four-month ban.

But Enrique will quickly need to make a decision which his first-choice formation will be.

At the start of the season, Enrique will probably go with the trusted 4-3-3 (as he has in the friendlies) and gradually make changes that suit the players.

How to fit in Neymar, Suarez and Messi In the same team

"Every coach wants to have the best players…I am delighted to have all three of Messi, Neymar and Suarez…the more great players, the better," Enrique claimed.

The 40-year-old might be blessed with a plethora of attacking talents, but it will be intriguing to see how three of the world’s best players will fit into the same system.

Suarez won’t find the team built around him, like was the case at Liverpool. He will play second fiddle to Messi and like Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa in the past, the Uruguay international might not fancy a subdued role.

Neymar’s debut season was solid but he couldn’t recreate his Brazil’s performances for Barcelona since the latter’s system has always centered on Messi. Same could happen with Suarez.

Former Barcelona player Johan Cruyff, has doubts about all three playing in Enrique's side.

"I do not understand how the club will play a joined-up game with Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez all in the team," he told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, per SPORT.

"All three are individuals.

"Clearly then, this is a club that prefers individuals rather than a team that plays good football."

Managing the three egos and fitting them into the same team with the right balance will be a difficult task for Enrique but he will he have time on his side to do so.

What about Alex Song, Ibrahim Afellay, Pedro Rodriguez and Marc Bartra?

The imminent return of Mascherano to the holding midfield role and the arrival of Suarez has made Alex Song and Ibrahim Afellay surplus to the requirements at the Nou Camp.

After the match against Napoli, Enrique gave a clear indication that the two will be heading out of Spain this summer.

He was quoted as saying: "I talked to them. They know how I feel and I know how they feel. We're going to find the best solutions for all parts involved."

Song is a target for several Premier League clubs, while Afellay is rumoured to be having a medical at Greek club Olympiakos, before the 28-year-old joins them on a three-year contract.

However, it will be interesting to see how much playing time Marc Bartra and and Pedro are given. Bartra is behind Gerard Pique, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen in the pecking order. He himself has admitted that he will have to "grit his teeth and fight for a place in the first-team".

On the other hand, Pedro could see his playing time reduced once Suarez returns from the ban. He could however, get playing time if Barcelona continually play with wing-backs.

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