Barcelona begin the defence of their Champions League crown this week away at AS Roma and at a venue where they celebrated their 2009 triumph.
The Catalans look well set to make the latter stages of the competition again and indeed only once in the last eight years – in 2013/14 – have they failed to reach at least the semi final stages.
No other European team in recent history can compare to the record of the Blaugrana in European football’s Premier knockout tournament.
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And more than ever Barca seem ready, indeed intent, on making history once more.
Let’s take a look at three reasons why they will become the first team in the modern era to retain the title.
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You cannot deny the aspirations of a strike force that plunder 122 goals for you across a campaign. It’s unheard of. Preposterous.
Before the last round of league matches, Barca’s striking trio had actually scored more goals between them in 2015 than any other entire team in the top five football leagues in Europe.
87 goals was three more than their nearest rivals Real Madrid. It would have to be Los Blancos would it not. Just to add some more edge to the narrative.
In any event, Luis Suarez, denied a start for Barca until the third month of last season, is already amongst the goals this and is arguably the man in form.
Once Messrs. Neymar and Messi kick-start their campaign then opposition teams are mere fodder. You can stop one. Perhaps even two. But three is the magic number and no one has worked out the formula to this juncture.
No group stage woes
For once, Barca have avoided any potential banana skins in the group stages. AS Roma, their first opponents, are likely to be the only side to present them with a real test.
Overcome their first game unscathed and then Luis Enrique must surely think about utilising his full squad to the maximum.
Bayer Leverkusen aren’t the side that lost 7-1 on their last visit to Catalonia, but with no real “stars” to speak of in their ranks, the likelihood of an upset is miniscule.
Ditto Bate Borisov, the whipping boys of the group and whom Barca beat 9-0 on aggregate with a team of reserves back in 2011/12.
Lady Luck has certainly shined her light brightly.
Although Barca’s defence appear to be at sixes and sevens just now, with a mixture of bans and injuries to overcome, their defence is as settled as it’s ever been in the last decade.
Even Pep Guardiola’s side cannot claim to be as good defensively as Luis Enrique’s vintage. Just two goals conceded from set pieces last season was a marked improvement on season’s past when the aerial ball invoked panic amongst the Blaugrana ranks.
With at least four natural centre-backs now in situ, Barca have strength in depth in an area of the pitch where they’ve struggled to produce in the past.
33 clean sheets last year in all competitions is the benchmark. Rest assured that with much the same players in situ, they’ll be going all out for an improvement.
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