Barcelona may have landed one of world football's most exciting talents in Neymar during a summer of uncertainty at the Camp Nou, but their failure to acquire a leading central defender could come back to haunt them when the big prizes are being handed out in May.
Gerard Pique and Barcelona captain Carles Puyol have been largely trusted to provide the last line of defence in Catalonia for more than four years now, but despite neither player's ability being in question beneath that experienced pair, Gerardo Martino's side have a worrying lack of strength in depth.
Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquests and Alex Song have all provided cover with varying degrees of success last season, but failed to offer a long-term solution to the problem of compensating for injuries and suspensions.
Puyol in particular has been missing at key times in the last two seasons, with persistent knee problems forcing Barca to cope without their defensive stalwart while fighting on multiple fronts.
The 35-year-old's absence was glaringly evident during last season's demolition in the Champions League semi-final by Bayern Munich, with youngster Marc Bartra proving woefully inadequate cover just when Barca desperately needed experience to steady a sinking ship.
Despite persistent speculation linking Martino's men with the likes of Thiago Silva, Daniel Agger and Martin Srktel in recent months the transfer window has come and gone without any new faces in a proven area of weakness.
Mascherano has filled in for Puyol in Martino's first three league games in charge, keeping two clean sheets as Barca have racked up three successive wins in La Liga. On the surface then problem solved, but expect the same problems the Catalan giants suffered last season when the Champions League resumes in two weeks time.
Barca's failure to land defensive cover should quite frankly be viewed as negligent, particularly when you consider the attacking potential at Martino's disposal. The Argentine may not have wanted to rock the boat after arriving in July as Tito Vilanova's replacement, but Barcelona are a side with the resources to demand two quality players fighting for each position in the side.
Last summer saw Song arrive at the Camp Nou as defensive cover, but the tag was unfair for the former Arsenal man, who is much more effective protecting possession in a holding midfield role.
Mascherano may have proved a capable deputy but is also arguably more comfortable with being tasked to break up play in central midfield, once again leaving Pique and Puyol as the club's only recognised central defenders.
In 90% of matches that will prove sufficient for Barca to maintain their grip on La Liga, thanks largely to a side built on retaining possession high up the field to suffocate opponents and force mistakes.
When Barca come up against the very best in the Champions League later this year though their fans have every right to fear that they are ill-equipped to fight on two fronts, with Europe's finest given a blueprint for success on the counter carried out brutally by Bayern in May.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/130seMa
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms