Tuesday night’s Champions League fixture between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid revealed a lot about what the Catalan club must do to continue their domestic and European dominance.
Every great club must be proactive in the transfer market to avoid stalling, and to keep their star players fighting for their place instead of resting on their laurels.
Barcelona have been one of the most impressive clubs over the past eight years, not only in terms of their sheer dominance at domestic and European level, but also for their aesthetically pleasing style which has strong roots in the Total Football culture that the legendary Johan Cruyff brought to the club with great success in the early 1990s.
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The additions of Neymar, Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have regenerated a team that desperately needed some inspiration, after the brief reign of Gerardo Martino in 2013-2014 which saw the club end the season without a major trophy in the cabinet.
Luis Enrique has turned Barcelona into yet another dominant team during his two seasons with the club, and he has inspired them to play the type of football that viewers had become accustomed to during the Pep Guardiola era.
During the El Clasico, which Real Madrid won 2-1, and Tuesday night’s Champions League game against Atletico Madrid - which saw the Catalan club come from behind to win 2-1 after Fernando Torres was sent-off - there were signs of tiredness amongst the Barcelona stars. Some wayward passes and crucial misses in front of goal - particularly from Neymar - could have cost them on another day.
Barcelona rely heavily on their MSN trio (Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar) to create and score goals, and the game against Atletico demonstrated that teams can stifle the three superstars with heavy pressing, excellent organisation and some gamesmanship thrown into the mix too.
The second leg in this tie will be a fascinating encounter, with Barcelona conceding that away goal and failing to score more than two goals to pull away from the 10-man team, but there was evidence last night, and on Saturday, that Barca don’t really have a Plan B.
Enrique has quite an interesting and detailed task this summer. Barcelona’s bench does not contain many players who are pushing the first 11 to start and this can lead to complacency amongst the regular starters.
Alarm bells will have been ringing after El Clasico and will still be ringing after Tuesday’s match, with some Barca players looking like the long season is beginning to take its toll on them.
Regeneration and reinvention is at the core of every great team. Players must be challenged to better themselves and improve week-in-week-out.
A new, quality centre-back will challenge the ever present duo of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano who have been unmoved despite the additions of Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu.
A tenacious and skilful midfielder will give Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets more initiative to adapt and improve their game while the introduction of an energetic and prolific forward would only serve to add to the threat that is already posed by one of the most potent and dangerous forward lines there has ever been.
Enrique faces a mammoth task at Barcelona to please a crowd that has become accustomed to success and there may well even be questions regarding his future should Barcelona exit the Champions League at the quarter-final stage - such is the nature of the club.
Should Enrique survive the fickle world that is football management then he must look to add players who will give Barcelona strength-in-depth, allowing him to bring players onto the pitch who will influence big games and help to give the superstars that the club relies so heavily on a break.
Barcelona look like they need to consider summer spending this year to rejuvenate their already exceptional squad to help give them a Plan B and prolong their dominance across Europe.
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