Football

Barcelona may struggle thanks to hectic calendar this year

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Despite a magical campaign last season, what happened in Barcelona's pre-season tour this time around signalled nothing but disappointment and uncertainty.

There are critical reasons why I believe the reigning La Liga champions will not be as successful this year as they were last time out, with their ridiculous calendar having a big part to play.

Bad SCHEDULE

A tough schedule will take a serious toll on the fitness of players. This is particularly correct with regards to Barcelona, looking at the way they played recently.

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The Catalans struggled over 120 minutes, despite a comfortable lead, when beating Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup. Within the next six days, an exhausted Barcelona had to play twice against Athletic Bilbao for the Supercopa; consequently suffering a heavy 4-0 loss in the first leg, before failing to make a comeback and letting their opponents secure a draw at the Nou Camp.

Too busy?

Cruel as it may seem, it looks like Barcelona's schedule will include around three matches a week this season. Domestically speaking, unlike last year, La Liga 2015/2016 will end around May, so as to make way for national teams to participate in EURO 2016.

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Additionally, La Liga's traditional winter break will force the league to play more often in order to keep up with the league schedule. Not to mention top-tier teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid will also be competing in continental competitions. 

Considering how the late starting La Liga ends at the same time as the Premier League - which starts sooner and has no winter break - one can see how tough it will be for Spanish teams.

Hard beginnings

The beginning of this season will be particularly difficult for Barcelona. After a first few fixtures, the team will head to Japan for the Club World Cup. Before that, they will have to play a lot away from home.

Among Barcelona's first seven away matches, five are against Spanish elite squads: Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Real Madrid and Valencia. The team must be careful not to lose too many points within this period.

Failing to secure the maximum points possible will mean a much tougher task awaiting Barcelona at home. One only has to remember the fall of the mighty Real last season, despite the fact they won both the Super Cup, the Club World Cup and secured 22 consecutive victories in all competitions.

SQUAD DEPTH

It is no doubt that Luis Enrique boasts having one of the best teams with some of the best players in the world, however, the table will turn if an injury plague sweeps through Catalonia. Excluding the team's newest signings, Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan, both of whom will only be allowed to play after January, Barcelona have 22 registered first-team members.

A 22-man squad is an ideal number if the substitutes are capable of playing regular first-team football, or at least capable of replacing key players when they cannot play.

The reality at Barcelona is however not quite that. Given Pedro's departure to Chelsea there is now only Munir El Haddadi and Sandro Ramirez left to cover for the first-team trio of Lionel Messi Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Similarly, Barcelona only have youngsters from La Masia to cover for Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta in the midfield, while injury-prone Thomas Vermaelen and teammate Marc Bartra cannot be a guaranteed for much at this level.

As Barcelona employ a fast-paced passing game, it's no wonder Enrique voiced his concerns over the team's players, saying that without a 100% fitness level, his team will suffer at once.

As the race is no longer exclusive, this season Barcelona will have to do their best from the off, or risk certainly being left behind.

Barcelona fans, do you think your side will struggle this year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Topics:
Football
Luis Enrique
Athletic Bilbao
Real Madrid
Barcelona

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