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So much to do and so little time for Barcelona this pre-season

Xavi must be wise with how he approaches the American tour 

FC Barcelona Training Session Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barca is back in the USA, but there will be no time for sightseeing.

The season kicks off on August 13, leaving just a few weeks for the Blaugrana to make the necessary preparations to start things off with a clear plan and identity.

With the cancellation of the first game of the tour, there will be limited time for the manager to experiment, and fewer chances for players to showcase their drive and ability.

Luckily for the fans, Barcelona has scheduled must-watch games against Premier League powerhouse Arsenal, and a Clasico to follow up the electrifying match from a year ago in Las Vegas.

Real Madrid v Barcelona Fc Photo by Maciek Gudrymowicz/ISI Photos/Getty Images

First up are the Gunners at the modern coliseum that is Sofi Stadium in Las Angeles. Expect a sold out crowd who won’t settle for anything less than top competition.

Arsenal already have two games under their belt, and have had mixed results. After dominating the MLS All Stars 5-0, they were humbled by Manchester United in a troubling 2-0 defeat.

This is an Arsenal side with a lot to prove, and the pressure to win now.

After a magical run in the Premier League that seemed to come out of nowhere, considering the struggles they had a year prior, Arsenal has invested in top talent in an attempt to compete for titles domestically, and in their return to the Champions League.

Losing to Manchester United, a team that was below them, and who has been quieter on the market, was surely a wake up call.

SOCCER: JUL 22 Soccer Champions Tour - Manchester United vs Arsenal Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After spending €105 million on Declan Rice, €65m on Kai Havertz, and €38m on Jurien Timber, the Gunners will be motivated to show that they are amongst the best in Europe.

No better way to prove it than taking down the Catalan giants.

So how will Xavi approach this first game?

The team isn’t radically different from last season in terms of the players going out, and a few new players coming in, but tactically we’ll all be waiting to see what’s on the manager’s mind.

In theory, he could run back the 4-3-3, throw in Frenkie de Jong for Sergio Busquets, go with a trident of Lewandowski, Dembele, and Raphinha, and call it a day.

RC Celta v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Take some time to ease into the season, and experiment with three men in the back along the way, and use Ilkay Gundogan and Inigo Martinez as rotation pieces, along with Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres.

But knowing Xavi, he won’t take the easy route. He probably has lots of ideas on his mind that he will be eager to try out.

The first question is of course who will play the pivot role?

Frenkie will be first in line, and there’s an argument to be made that giving him the nod, and then time to acclimate himself, is the best use of Barca’s time this summer. He’ll need to get a run of games to figure out how best to approach the position, and to give time for his team-mates to get accustomed to playing without Busquets as well.

The second choice seems to be Oriol Romeu. A reliable set of hands, who won’t light up the field, but can certainly put in a shift. Xavi will want to see how he fits in, and if he can handle the pressure of wearing the Barca shirt again.


Beyond that, however, there’s thinking outside the box, and giving Eric Garcia or Andreas Christensen a tryout in the position.

This could be especially interesting if Xavi copies Manchester City’s 3-2-4-1, with one of the central defenders taking on the role that John Stones was so successful at.

Perhaps there are more important matters at hand than tactics.

In fact, there is a game against Real Madrid in Dallas, and if there is one thing bigger than Texas, it has to be the Clasico.

And this one will not be friendly, as Toni Kroos has reminded us this week, saying: “El Clasico is a special match and it will be played in a special stadium. I don’t think a clash against Barcelona will ever be a friendly.”

Yes, more important than strategy is seeing which players are the hungriest, and against a new-look Real Madrid team, it will be a chance for the Barca players to remind their rivals who the kings of Spain are.

FC Barcelona Training Session Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

It’s Real Madrid with the biggest questions of all going into the new season.

How to replace Karim Benzema, and how to incorporate record signing Jude Bellingham into a crowded midfield that has seen much investment over the past two years.

Barca shouldn’t be comfortable that the team that got the best of Los Blancos last year will be able to do the same by default this year. Real Madrid is a wildcard team now as things stand. They could be one of the best teams in Europe, or they could struggle to evolve into the new era they are entering.

If Xavi is giving a blank slate to his team to earn a bigger role in the upcoming campaign, now is the time to see who seizes the opportunity.

Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres have the most to play for, and must be ready to take advantage of the moments in front of goal that come to them.

FC Barcelona v RCD Mallorca - LaLiga Santander Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Will a player like Sergino Dest get a chance at redemption?

Are Ez Abde and Yamine Yamal ready to take on the challenge of performing at the highest level on the greatest team in the world?

We’re about to see where Xavi’s head is at, and which players rise to the occasion.

And it will be against the best competition in the biggest and brightest, sold out, American stadiums.

The energy will be rocking, and it’ll be a fantastic way to usher in a new season.

Time to get to work, and put on a show.

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