The last time Barcelona successfully embarked on a treble winning campaign, they had several similarities to the current squad. Firstly, the duo of Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, who remain one of the most potent attacking duos in the world of football, if not the most.
Secondly, the team is hungry for success after seeing arch-rivals Real Madrid capture their third successive Champions League trophy.
Thirdly, the squad possesses a depth that many teams would love to have. Malcom, Rafinha, Arthur, Arturo Vidal, Nelson Semedo, and even Clement Lenglet would walk into the starting lineup of most other European clubs. Knowing this, Ernesto Valverde must produce another similarity with the treble winning campaign - rotation.
When Luis Enrique began at Barcelona, pundits and fans alike were quick to voice displeasure at the manager when he began to rotate his squad. Especially after a cold winter 1-0 defeat at the hands of Real Sociedad.
Enrique, the gaffer, decided to keep Messi and Neymar on the bench that night. The squad couldn’t grind out the win and most thought that Enrique would be fired by next week.
What wasn’t realized at the time was that Enrique was readying his squad for the most important parts of the season. Towards the end of the season, the triumvirate of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar completely embarrassed defenses.
On tired legs, the trio would prove difficult to stop, but rested along with a midfield ready to pounce - Barcelona proved too much for opposition on their way to winning three trophies.
This year, Valverde has a similar opportunity. Even though the loss of club legend Andres Iniesta will be felt in midfield and Paco Alcacer’s departure for Dortmund may leave them short on strikers, Barcelona retained key players and revitalized their squad at the same time.
As mentioned above, those six players will be vying for some quality football and Valverde would be smart to use his squad more thoroughly.
Last season, when Barcelona’s Champions League campaign came to a crashing halt against Roma; Barcelona looked tired, fearful, and not ready for the challenge of playing in Rome.
Some of that has to be attributed to fatigue - both mental and physical. Last year, Valverde can be excused for not trusting the likes of Alcacer or Andre Gomes in certain games, but this year with players like Arturo Vidal, Malcom, and Lenglet ready to go - rotation will be key.
In essence, while rotation can certainly feel troublesome in the moment, with certain games more difficult to win without Messi, Suarez, Rakitic, or Busquets on the field, keeping our most important players fresh and ready to go for the most critical parts of our campaign must be a priority.
The sooner that Valverde realizes that this year, the better. In order to have Barcelona challenging on all fronts come March and April, the squad cannot be fatigued, a sense of competition must be felt, and our key players must retain the hunger that found its way into our 2014-2015 season.