This season Barcelona has played some great football in the Spanish league as well as the Champions League. Their attack and midfield has been awesome all along the season lead by none other than Lionel Messi and ever reliable Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. However their defense has been more of a concern lately, Puyol is aging and he’s been injured quite often lately, Abidal is not getting any younger and injury has kept him out of action quite often this season and pique hasn’t been half of what he was last year, which is a cause f concern for them. Their away form has also been very inconsistent comparing to last year. They have drawn 5 and lost 2 this season on the road.
Last year was pretty good for Barcelona as they didn’t have too much of injury problems. They had it easy in the League as well as Champions League. This year has been a different story altogether, they trail Leader Real Madrid by 4 points with 5 matches still left to play, though it can be reduced to 1 point provided they win the Clasico at Nou Camp. Champions League has been easy for them so far however they will have to play Chelsea in the semi- finals. Chelsea have had quite an amazing run of form lately, they beat Napoli 4-1, after trailing them 1-3 from Naples and were virtually considered to be out of Champions League and most recently they have beaten Tottenham 5-1 in the FA Cup semi finals. It looks like Barcelona has a tough task ahead if they want to reach the final.
Having said that, here’s my take on what Barcelona needs to improve and what I expect from the Catalans in the 2012-13 season.
1).NO MORE PLAY ACTING- Barcelona plays some of the most amazing football. They have great set of players who can control the game at any given day. They score for fun and play their own game anywhere in the world and throughout the season they have controlled every single match they have played. However the problem with them is play acting. It is not apt for a club of such stature to indulge in play acting and trying to get opponents sent off. They play good football and they should concentrate on winning matches with the kind of football they play. They should cut on those theatrics, it’s just hurting the club’s image to be honest.
2).CENTRE BACK- Though Barca has been near to perfect in their attack, their defense has been a major concern. Puyol and Abidal are on the wrong side of 30s now and they have been injured quite often. Pique hasn’t been half as good as last season. Mascherano and Busquets have been more than capable of filling in for Puyol and Abidal, however they are best when they play in their natural positions i.e. Defensive Midfield. Barca really needs a centre back this summer, who can not only be a back up to Puyol but also a permanent replacement for him.
3).IMPROVED AWAY FORM- Barca’s away form this season has been a concern and inconsistency on the road has really put a dent on their 4th successive title chase. This season they have played17 games so far and have drawn 5 and lost 2 on the road, whereas Real Madrid have drawn 2 and lost 1 in 16 away games, that really speaks of the consistency their rivals have while on the road this season . If they are to pose a real threat to Real Madrid next season they will have to improve on it.
4).MORE OVERALL CONTRIBUTION IN SCORING- Just as much Barca is playing flawless attacking football, it’s only Messi who scores on a regular basis. They play with 3 forwards, Villa and Pedro have been injured for long time, however if you look at Barca’s top 3 scorers then it’s Messi with 41 goals and then Sanchez and Xavi both on 10 goals, comparing to Real’s Ronaldo 41, Benzema 18 and Higuain 21. It looks like too much dependence on Messi to get the goals. Though the others contribute really well in the play but if they want to win the title, forwards need to contribute more in scoring on regular basis.
5).ANOTHER MESSI MAGIC SHOW- Messi has been superb throughout this season so far and I think in 2012-13 season he will get better and better, he already has scored 63 goals this season and looks set to break Gerd Muller’s record of 67 goals in all competition in one season. If he continues like this without injuries I think he will reach 300 Barca goals next season and also break many more records. I also feel that he is the strongest contender of Ballon D’or for this season as well. Next season will once again be the season when Messi will break every scoring record.
6).ANOTHER LA LIGA TITLE- This season hasn’t gone the way most people around the world expected for Barcelona. Too many draws on the road did hurt them and not to forget the consistent performance Real Madrid puts in, week in week out. They trail Real Madrid by 4 points and look likely to lose the title to their bitterest rivals for the first time since 2008-09 season. If it happens then I believe Barca will do everything possible to win the title once again and they will eventually do it, though Real Madrid has been playing great and have been really consistent lately but Barca will just beat them to the title.
7).CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI FINAL- It looks like the Catalans have a tough task ahead this year but I still think that Barca can still win the Champions League this year. I will not go as far to predict that they will win it again in 2012-13 season, however they will definitely reach the semi-final for the 4th consecutive time. Having said that, If they are consistent in performances they might just win it but it looks very unlikely. Barca however will be the team to beat for every team competing in the Champions League.
8).MORE GAMES FOR YOUNGSTERS- During 4-0 win over Bate Borisov in the Champions League last December Guardiola threw a host of Academy graduates into the starting lineup, resulting in team's average age being just 21 years old, they however controlled the game like their own and Montoya and Roberto even went on to score in that match. They have hugely talented youngsters like 19-year-old Sergi Roberto, Cristian Tello, Martin Montoya, Isaac Cuenca, Thiago Alcantara and his 18-year-old brother Rafinha, who looks ready to get more regular first team action in 2012-13 season, while some of them have already been pretty regular this year as well thanks to injuries to players like Iniesta, Villa, Pedro and Sanchez. I however feel, injuries to senior players or not, these youngsters will get their well deserved fair share of chances in 2012-13.
9).DOMINANCE IN EL CLASICO- Season 2012-13 promises to be an exciting affair once again. The appointment of Jose Mourinho and resurgence of Real Madrid has made El Clasicos more exciting and fierce than ever. Real Madrid has really been in superb form lately however I believe that they will struggle against the Catalans in the El Clasicos once again in 2012-13. The recent results don’t favor Madrid either since 2008-09 season they just managed 1 win and 4 draws out of 12 matches and have lost 7. 2012-13 will be the same story for the Catalans, they will be the dominant force in the Clasicos.
10).GUARDIOLA TO STAY- it might sound absurd however I have included this Due to Pep Guardiola's insistence on signing one-year contracts every season, there is always some amount of speculation about his future and when his last season in Catalonia will be. I believe he would stay and will sign another contract. A legend as both a player and manager, Guardiola has won everything there is to win at both levels, and might l
ook for fresh challenges, it is apparent that he loves the club and is keen to stay for as long as he can and I will not rule out seeing him at the touchline for another season at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona is an amazing team with a great set of players and I believe they will continue to mesmerize football fans all over the world throughout the next season as well with the help of some new recruitment in the defense. I will not be far from right if I say that they will win just about every possible trophy next season as well. It’s not some kind of overstatement of any kind but they just play some amazing football and if their key players remain fit and they play well consistently in away matches as well throughout the season they just might do it. They have had their share f problems this season, however they looks well set to leave it behind them and look to the fresh challenge next season and it remains to be seen what kind of changes does the new season brings forth for them.