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15/16 FC Barcelona Season Expectations

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With the new season just around the corner, let's take a look at what we can expect from Barça this time round.

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The European Super Cup

The very first objective on Barcelona's radar is the European Super Cup in just under a week's time. The club's last appearance in the competition came back in 2011 and this time round they face Spanish compatriots Sevilla. Back in 2011, the team comfortably overcame Porto in a 2-0 win with goals from Lionel Messi and Cesc Fàbregas. However this time round, Sevilla could prove a much tougher hurdle.

The Spanish side holds a special place in the personal history of Messi as it was against them that he overtook Telmo Zarra to become the all-time top-scorer in La Liga history. Messi's hat trick helped Barça secure a 5-1 win but it wasn't such plain sailing in the return fixture.

At the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán, Barcelona flew out of there blocks and with little more than half an hour on the clock, the side was two goals to the good. But the team collapsed in on itself as they threw away a 2-0 lead to tie the game 2-2.

This shows Sevilla will be no walk in the park but if Barcelona continue the form that won them the treble last season they should have what it takes to overcome their Liga rivals.

Supercopa de España

"Athletic are one of the most difficult sides to play against, they try and take the ball off you and they put you under pressure at all times." - Luis Enrique

Just three days after Barça's trip to Georgia for the European Super Cup, they must then compete the Supercopa de España. This two-legged affair sees a repeat of last season's Copa del Rey final as Barcelona come up against Athletic Bilbao.

Sheer brilliance from Messi won that game for Barcelona and the side will again be relying on the tremendous trio of Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar to get them over the line this time. The tie begins with a tricky away tie at the San Memes and the stadium in the Basque Country hasn't always been the happiest of hunting grounds for Barça (or indeed any club for that matter).

With the opening of the new San Memes last season, the Catalans travelled north knowing that no team had managed to secure a win there yet. But, the team's firing front line had other ideas. Messi, Suárez, Neymar and Pedro all got on the scoresheet as Barcelona ran away 5-2 winners to inflict Bilbao's first defeat in their new stadium.

So Luis Enrique can have confidence in his squad's ability to secure a good result away from home before returning to the Camp Nou to finish the job.

La Liga - The Hunt for the 24th League Title

As per usual, the Liga title is high up on Barcelona's To-Do list. They clinched last season's title thanks to an excellent second half of the season and emergence of one of the best attacking tridents in the club's history.

This season it'll be more of the same with Barça competing against two other clubs for the crown. Diego Simeone's Atlético Madrid fell short in their season as defending champions but the 2013/14 season proved they can't be entirely written off.

However, the reality is the larger threat will come from North Madrid in bitter rivals Real Madrid, now under the guidance of Rafa Benítez. Benítez has experience when it comes to title-winning campaigns having secured the Liga crown back in 2002 and 2004 with Valencia. Coupled with the fact that Madrid have only won one league title in the last seven season, you can see the extra motivation in them turning their attention away from the Champions League and towards the domestic league.

But, Barcelona remain the favourites. Messi, Suárez and Neymar look unstoppable at this moment in time while the rest of the team have also raised their game. Ivan Rakitić looks like he will become one of the most important players at the club following Xavi's departure and Gerard Piqué has recaptured his best form in the heart of the defence.

The only negative of the summer is Xavi's departure. Yes, he was in his twilight years but his leadership and experience can be what a team needs to slog out a 38 game season. That burden now falls into the capable hands of Andrés Iniesta but it will be interesting to see the long term effect of Xavi's exit both on and off the field.

The Club World Cup

"Our objective is to win the sextuple" - Gerard Piqué

In the middle of December, Barcelona will travel to Japan to compete in the Club World Cup, a tournament that brings together the champion clubs from each of the six continental confederations. The Catalans are the joint most successful club in the tournament's history and will be hoping to secure a third trophy this winter.

While it does propose another chance at a trophy, the tournament can also be a significant burden on a team fighting in other competitions. The tournament comes just before La Liga goes on its winter break which means that a team such as Barcelona could find themselves with two or three games in hand and a significant points deficit between themselves and their title rivals.

Factor in the extra games in a different climate and a different time zone and the tournament can have a serious effect on the latter stages of the season. Last season, Real Madrid competed in the tournament and  spent half of the season at the top of the Liga table before wilting towards the end.

But as Piqué puts it, Barcelona are going for the sextuple and will want to win every trophy on offer. The quality of the opposition usually favours the European sides so Barça should win the tournament relatively comfortably but Enrique will need to be astute with his squad rotation to ensure the team doesn't burn out come April.

Copa del Rey

The candidates to win Spain's cup completion is usually whittled down to four teams. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético and last year's finalists Athletic Bilbao. Bilbao proved last season that they're no pushovers when it comes to a cup competition and will be a tricky tie for any of the big clubs.

Interestingly though, no team has managed to retain the cup since 1998 when Barça overcame Mallorca in a penalty shoot out. The Catalan club will be hoping to break that hoodoo this season and a bet on them to reach the semi-final at least seems like a pretty safe one.

Champions League

And finally, it's the big one. It's well documented that no club has retained the trophy in the Champions League era and the last team to retain a European Cup was Milan back in 1990. However some teams have come close.

In 2009, Manchester United met Barcelona in Rome as defending champions only to be thwarted by Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi whilst Bayern Munich reached two finals in consecutive seasons back in 2011-13. So can Barcelona be the ones to make it over the line?

History making is hardly anything new to this modern era team and in a player by player comparison it's hard to see any team who surpasses them. It'll most likely come down to, as usually does, fine margins. A shot struck wide, a post rattled, an effort that slips through the keeper's gloves. These minor events can all have significant impacts and that is only amplified in the Champions League.

The task is a tough one but you wouldn't bet against Barça.