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A new, brilliant Barcelona crafted in Xavi’s own image

Shape of things to come…

FC Barcelona v Real Valladolid CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

There was always going to come a time when the majority of Barca’s ‘old guard’ were no longer first choice in their respective positions.

That it is Xavi who has relegated his former team-mates Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto to the bench shouldn’t really be seen as a surprise.

It shows the strength of character that’s needed to become a success in the position, and a former player of such standing is unlikely to be questioned over his selections, certainly not in the early stages of the campaign at least.

Moreover, the starting XI against Valladolid was very much Xavi’s own, both in personnel terms and style of play, and the incessant attacking of the opening half-hour was as good as we’ve seen from a Barca side for some while.

FC Barcelona v Real Valladolid CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Robert Lewandowski is the obvious focal point, though it’s the industry of the hardworking midfield and the creativity of the two wide men that’s going to cause all sorts of problems for opposition defences this season.

Raphinha and Ousmane Dembele were unstoppable at times, with their mixture of incredible close control and pace turning the Valladolid defence inside out.

Sergio Busquets remains the conductor supreme and gets into the starting XI on merit - for now. His calm, educated way of playing coupled with years of experience is the perfect accompaniment for Gavi’s marauding runs forward and Pedri’s magical touches.

The second goal was a thing of beauty and surely the shape of things to come as the players continue to get used to each other’s movements.

Although there was little for the defensive line of Kounde, Araujo, Balde and Eric to do, when called upon all were equal to the challenge.

FC Barcelona v Real Valladolid CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

There’ll be bigger tests ahead of course, however, it’ll have to be a very good opponent that consistently gets the better of that back four.

Aerially and across the deck they looked more than accomplished against La Pucela, a late first-half free-kick and a second-half half-chance notwithstanding.

And to think that Xavi could still call upon the likes of Franck Kessie, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres, Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay (maybe not for too much longer), Ansu Fati and the aforementioned trio of Alba, Pique and Roberto from the bench as required.

That’s an incredible array of subs to have and one which evidences the strength in depth that the Catalans now possess.

After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the likes of Jutgla, Abde and Ilias were being called upon as saviours.

How quickly things change!

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