El Centrocampista

BACK TO BUSINESS – How Barça’s real pre-season begins today.

By Lee Roden

Judging by the number of fixtures on F.C Barcelona’s summer calendar, you would be forgiven for thinking that pre-season was in full swing. 

I’ll burst that bubble however, and make the somewhat controversial assertion that in truth, pre-season only really started today for the Catalan giants.

Despite playing numerous matches in the Americas, as well as the Audi cup, Barça have been fielding a team comprising mainly of B team players and those not on international duty.

Guardiola will soon be able to pick from a full squad

Add to this injuries which prevented Xavi and Pique from participating for the most part, as well as Carles Puyol (who is still in the recovery process), and it becomes clear that reading in to Barça’s somewhat stale performances over the last week is dangerous.

Names like Alves, Adriano, Pique, Xavi, Macherano, Puyol, Messi and new signing Alexis Sanchez complete a list of players who have been mainly absent from the pre-season thus far.

Indeed, this absentee list is only two players short of being a starting 11 Guardiola would be proud to field in a league or European fixture.

Such is the quality Guardiola has been unable to call upon up until now.

Consequently, with players like Sanchez and Messi training for the first time this morning, as well as Xavi, Pique and Adriano having made their first appearances over the last few days, we can expect to see a more realistic insight into this season’s F.C Barcelona over the next two weeks.

Perhaps tonight’s “friendly” (I use this world loosely in relation to a derby) against Espanyol will be the first real chance to look at the FC Barcelona of 2011/12.

That is of course only if Guardiola chooses to field a stronger line-up than he did in the first game of the Copa Catalunya on Sunday however, which included a midfield three of Riverola, Dos Santos and Gustavo; two players from the B team and one who has been used as a utility man throughout the pre-season (for more on Jonathan’s forays at right back this summer see my other article).

It is possible that the opposition this evening will encourage Pep to swap experimentalism for tried and tested experience.

Losing to Espanyol is something Barça never desire, but losing due to fielding a poor line-up would be even worse.

It is true that Guardiola has incredible confidence in youth, but not to the degree that such confidence is misplaced and becomes carelessness and arrogance.

Ultimately, whilst Barça’s performances over the summer (Thiago excluded) have ranged from poor to average, I cannot stress enough the danger of jumping to early conclusions.

Only when Guardiola has a full strength eleven at his disposal, as well as a bench filled with the kind of quality exemplified in Alexis Sanchez, can we even begin to pass judgement on F.C Barcelona this year.

One such opportunity to field a full strength eleven will probably come with the first leg of the Spanish Supercup against Real Madrid.

Join me this Wednesday the 10th of August for my preview of the fixture, and more insight into Barça’s pre-season training.

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