Now I could start and end this piece in a very brief manner by just posting my predictions for the season, which would be.....
But that would be too easy and anybody who has known me for any length of time, will know that I haven't got a prediction right in ages (I work on a tolerance level of +/- 5 goals on score predictions, nowadays) so I'll try to explain my reasons. Feel free to disagree.
La Liga: I think based on current squad strengths, Barcelona look good for at least one trophy this season but I'm going to guess La Liga is the goal. For the first time in years, FC Barcelona has depth and more importantly, quality in depth. Despite Culés' apprehensions about Thomas Vermaelen, the man has shown the ability to lead a defense (even if it was two years ago) and should get a good chance to prove his quality, if he can stay fit. Let me say that again, IF he can stay fit. That said, the club did well to improve Fabregas' injury record, so who knows right?
We have Luis Suarez, who should provide a boost in quality, a little into the season. It has been confirmed that his ban ends 24th October and so he should be able to play the Clasico (or a part of it at least) whether it is on the 25th or the 26th. Biting aside, el pistolero is a baller. The Uruguayan can be particularly dangerous when he has controlled his natural "fight" to stay within the rules as he did last season AFTER the ban.
Central defense should no longer be an issue. Lucho seems to have, at the very least, got the energy levels up in the squad from all the interviews(by players) I've seen and the training sessions should start showing results in terms of chemistry and tactical acumen on a team level, in the near future.
Finally, I fully expect Messi to have a huge season this year. He might not score as much as in earlier seasons but at the very least, I expect him to dominate larger parts of the game and in general being more involved. This is Messi's chance to push back the whispers of "decline" and he looks fit and ready to go after the holidays (last year, Leo travelled way too much during pre-season which does have an effect).
The opposition, as expected, include Real Madrid and Atletico. Real are high on confidence with key players (Cristiano and Bale) fit and firing, it seems. Although in Ronaldo's case he has recently struggled with fitness issues and I guess we will have to wait and see how that goes over a season. They do not lack in attacking depth with the addition of James Rodriguez to the squad. Where I think they will struggle is the pressure on Ancelotti to play all of the "big name/purchase" players in the same team. Just a guess, but Carlo isn't as assertive as Mourinho was with respect to who chooses the squad. Everything points towards Real potentially losing either Khedira or Angel Di Maria. In my opinion, losing either will hurt them a bit. Khedira is the strength they might lack (at least defensively) if Carlo plays Kroos AND Modric in midfield, even if they did well enough against Sevilla. Di Maria needs no introduction after the brilliant season he had last year.
Atletico, however, is a whole new sort of trouble. The "smaller team" of the capital city have reinforced well by buying Mario Mandzukic from Bayern Munich AND Antoine Griezmann to help in attack, after losing Diego Costa to Chelsea (we'll get to them later). The Ace that they have, however is Diego Simeone, who seems to excel in every aspect of coaching. The added advantage is that Atletico have managed to retain their core from last season after holding on to in-demand players like Koke and Arda Turan.
That said, I still think Barca will win the title this year. There's a good combination of fresh blood, experienced players while not lacking in numbers in key areas (despite losing Deulofeu, I personally believe either one of Munir, Hallilovic or Adama will step up this season if given the chance).
Premier League and Champions League: I hate that I'm saying this out loud but Jose Mourinho always performs in his second year with a team. His current Chelsea squad seems to suit his preferred style of football. Buying quality players who seem to excel in a direct style of football. Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa will turn out to be a very good moves, in my opinion. Then he has the perfect player in Thibaut Courtois guarding the posts (with Petr Cech possibly being back up? That's insane quality) and Filipe Luis, arguably the best full-back in Europe after Philipp Lahm, adding world class quality to the flanks (seriously, how the hell did he not get called up to Brasil?).
There's basically just too much quality in that squad to go trophyless this season. But it's not hard to see a certain kind of team in one's mind. Defensively sound, sit relatively deep and counter with quality passing from the likes of Cesc Fabregas (who is world class when it comes to final passes into space) and strength, cunning, hard work and superb finishing from Diego Costa should finally see Chelsea solve their striker issues. That kind of team is also the kind to (again just an opinion) win knock-out tournaments like the Champions League. Last year, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid showed fluidity while being lethally efficient on the counter attack, when deeper into the competition and I believe this year Chelsea could be the ones to impress (while most of us might hate Mourinho's idea of football, we must admit he knows how to win and Chelsea are consistently amongst the top 5 teams in Europe over the last few years).
Well, chances are I'll be proven horribly wrong, like with most of my predictions but do you guys agree with my prediction? yes? no? DISCUSS!
- Report: FC Barcelona's Interest In Brazilian Full-Back Confirmed
- Confirmed: Claudio Bravo To Start The Season As FC Barcelona's Number One
- Do FC Barcelona Really Need Juan Cuadrado?
- Official: Gerard Deulofeu Loaned Out to Sevilla. Making Room for Cuadrado?
- Luis Suarez's Ban Upheld, Will Be Allowed to Train with Barça