Usually the international break is a big headache for FC Barcelona, with players going on international voyages, and coming back not fully fit for the next match. But this time, it might actually be welcome.
To be sure, there are a lot of players who will still be traveling. Philippe Coutinho, Malcom, Arthur, Marc-André ter Stegen, Ivan Rakitić, Sergio Busquets, Jasper Cillessen, Thomas Vermaelen, and Ousmane Dembélé will all be with their respective national sides.
But on the other hand, Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Jordi Alba, Nélson Semedo, Clément Lenglet, and Gerard Piqué will stay home and get some needed rest, while Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti will get a chance to heal from their injuries.
Barça once again failed to win this past weekend, when they drew 1-1 with Valencia. They have only collected three out of a possible 12 points in the past four league matches, far from the expected return.
Perhaps a break, either from playing in total, or at least from this environment, is the sort of mental reset Barcelona need.
To be fair, Barça were better against Valencia than they have been in some recent games. Maybe they’ll be able to build on it, with a slate of tough matches on the horizon.
Ernesto Valverde surely will reassess his strategy, as he tries to go from a 4-4-2 last season which broadly served him well to a 4-3-3 this season. Perhaps the team misses Andrés Iniesta more than expected, as well.
Barcelona will play league leaders Sevilla first, and then follow it up with a crucial UEFA Champions League match against Inter Milan. And right after comes a pivotal clásico against Real Madrid. The margin for error will be quite small.
Valverde in particular could start feeling the pressure if his men do not give a good account of themselves in the coming matches. There’s a chance for, for example, Real or Atlético Madrid, or indeed Sevilla, to pounce and leave the competition behind in what is shaping up to be a tight start to the league season.
With that in mind, this is the right time to reassess and reset, and go into the coming challenges with a bit of freshness. Totally not what you associate the international break with..