For someone who is excessively dependent on FC Barcelona to whet their footballing appetite, the international break is arguably my least favorite time as a Culé. However, it allows one to take a step back from the weekly chaos of La Liga, and reassess the club's potential future in the league and Europe.
While Barça has a starting XI to envy, the same cannot be said for it's bench which has been underwhelming in the past few seasons. In a line-up where just about every single player appears to have paranormal abilities, it's not hard to explain the drop in quality - certainly a massive task to reduce it during the course of a campaign though.
The Champions League fixture against Manchester City along with the weekend encounter with Sevilla, are crucial reminders, that through all the warranted criticism, Barcelona's seasonal trajectory is upward and gaining momentum.
Despite the loss against Pep Guardiola's latest project, most would agree that the first 40 minutes of the match were everything we expect from Barça; crisp passing, accompanied by an incredible press. On the other hand, the win against Sevilla was a game of two halves and Barcelona made it count when it mattered most, as they pulled through despite being poor for the entirety of the first half.
In the former game, it was Andre Gomes who replaced the injured captain while Denis Suarez got called up for the weekend match-up. Both players had decent performances as Andre Gomes provided the necessary control and calm in midfield with his vision while Denis Suarez dribbled, pressed and sliced defences in the second half.
Despite the good performances coming through only for solitary halves in different games, they are necessary building blocks that could shape the season; they could also serve as precursors for the future of Barça's midfield.
Both players have struggled through out the season having failed to find the rhythm that would have set the tone for a consistent future in midfield, but if their recent performances are anything to go by, both have shown the promise that could propel them higher in the midfield heirarchy.
Ideally it would benefit the club and the players if the two were to form a formidable partnership that lasts for a long time. However, considering the fact that both these players prefer playing as the left-sided interior, this could be an interesting match up to look out for as we move towards a future that doesn't include Andres Iniesta.
Whether they work together or out-do each other isn't important; it is easy to predict that these incredibly talented players are gunning for the podium and the competition for a spot in the XI is gaining heat.
The gauntlet has been laid.
Let me know in the comments below as to which player you prefer and why!