A new mindset, a slightly improved squad and, most importantly, a new manager are the differences between last season’s and this season’s Barcelona. In their opening game, Tito Vilanova will be looking to start on the right foot against Real Sociedad tomorrow.
Barcelona were disappointing in patches last season, never really reaching the consistency of previous seasons under Pep Guardiola. The squad looked deflated and tired at times, with a great deal of firepower lost through the injury to David Villa. This season, I’m expecting something big from the Catalans.
Their home opener against Sociedad promises to be an exciting match, with either a number of surprises in store or an unmistakeable clinic from Barcelona. Despite Sociedad being a good side, Barcelona will always look like a team who can score.
One of the big questions for this Barcelona side is how Lionel Messi can better the numbers and performances he put up last season. The current World Player of the Year is likely to lose his place at the top of the mountain to Cristiano Ronaldo when the award is handed out this season, but it certainly doesn’t take away from the phenomenal displays of last year.
As usual, Messi is likely to figure in a central role, either as the most advanced point of Barcelona’s attack or slightly deeper and interchanging with another figure, possibly Alexis Sanchez or Cesc Fabregas.
The Nou Camp hasn’t been devoid of shock results in recent years, with teams like Hercules and Sevilla putting in very good performances against this Barcelona side. But under Tito Vilanova, it will be interesting to see what the mindset is for this group of players.
Like Real Madrid, Barcelona have done very little business this summer, with Jordi Alba coming in to occupy the left-back role and Alex Song’s transfer likely to be done before next week’s group of fixtures.
Bet365 betting odds on this game:
1/10 Barcelona, 8/1 Draw, 25/1 Real Sociedad
But the key introduction will be David Villa, who was greatly missed throughout the second half of last season. His contribution in front of goal is undeniable, and with Alexis Sanchez posting only 12 league goals as the team’s second highest scorer to Messi, Villa’s predatory instincts around the box will be a much-needed addition.
Expect David Villa to start off slow, however, with a great deal of football having been missed due to his injury in December. But this Barcelona side are always capable of passing their opposition into submission.
Last season’s meetings between the two sides saw Barcelona win the corresponding fixture, with the match in San Sebastian providing evidence to the self-destructive nature of Barcelona’s performances. Guardiola’s men were 2-0 up and looking comfortable, but a number of mistakes gifted Sociedad the opportunity to level at 2-2 inside a couple of minutes.
This year, Sociedad have made permanent their loan signing of Arsenal’s Carlos Vela. They’ll also be relying on another excellent set of displays from Antoine Griezmann, and will be looking to Xabi Prieto to provide the leadership. The club have also managed to bring in Roma’s Jose Angel on loan, a player who previously played for Sporting Gijon in La Liga. They’re all good players who are capable of frustrating and surprising Barcelona.
But we’ll be looking for a positive mentality from the home side. If Barcelona establish this season as a fresh chapter, as it should be, then we may be looking forward to another match of other-worldly football.
A new season, the need to do well and the necessity to not be upstaged by Real Madrid will be key for this Barcelona side.
It is hardly a betting proposition at 1/10, but I’ll look to Barcelona for a home win in their first game of the league season.