January 16, 2021, 4:59 am
Barcelona return to LaLiga Santander action in a sea of doubts surrounding their transfer strategy and goings-on behind the scenes at the club.
Quique Setien’s side have the chance to lift the mood at the Camp Nou as they chase a third successive LaLiga Santander title.
However, plenty of question marks still remain about how the rest of the season will pan out.
The return of Luis Suarez and MSG
The stoppage in the season has allowed Suarez to return from injury just in time for a crucial part of the campaign.
In the months before the season’s suspension, Setien had to modify his system to compensate for the Uruguayan’s absence, adding a fourth central midfielder to the team or wing-backs.
Antoine Griezmann could be a victim of Suarez’s return as he moves back into the deeper role he played in during the first part of the campaign.
Martin Braithwaite or Ansu Fati?
After a sensational start to the season, Ansu Fati has seen his role diminish to the point where he only played 10 minutes across Barcelona’s last three games before the suspension of the campaign.
This lack of minutes was due, in part, to the signing of Braithwaite, who arrived at the Camp Nou to solve an injury crisis up front.
Now, with Suarez back in the mix, only one of them is expected to play a prominent part in the rest of the season.
The performances of those on the transfer list
Coronavirus has done serious damage to Barcelona’s finances, forcing them to put the majority of their squad up for sale this summer.
The Catalan club also know that they’ll have to include players in any deals to sign Lautaro Martinez or Neymar.
The likes of Nelson Semedo, Junior Firpo, Samuel Umtiti, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal have very uncertain futures at the club and it will be interesting to see where their commitment lies on the pitch.
Arthur Melo’s role
Speaking of the transfer market, Arthur has been one of the key names involved in discussions with Juventus over the signing of Miralem Pjanic.
Juve have declared their interest in the Brazilian, but he has no intention of leaving Barcelona this summer and has made that clear.
In fact, Arthur recently met with Blaugrana technical directors Eric Abidal and Ramon Planes to settle their differences in the view of the midfielder staying at the Camp Nou beyond this summer.
Now, he has the chance to stake his claim for a starting spot under Setien and put the exit talk to bed.
Opportunities for youngsters
Six Barcelona B players will be involved with the first team until the season finishes or the Segunda B play-offs begin.
Alongside Ansu Fati, the remaining five are Inaki Pena, Alex Collado, Ronald Araujo, Riqui Puig and Monchu.
With two matches a week and the Champions League to come in August, Setien will need to rotate his already small squad in order to keep everyone fresh.
That will give the young players a chance to prove why they deserve to remain in the first team going forward.
One thing to note about the Bundesliga’s return is the lack of home advantage for teams.
This season, Barcelona have won each of their LaLiga Santander games at the Camp Nou except the goalless draw with Real Madrid in December.
While the lack of home advantage could be seen as a negative, Barcelona could also benefit from it having lost five away games this season.
They will travel to Real Mallorca, Sevilla, Celta Vigo, Villarreal, Real Valladolid and Alaves without the added pressure of a home crowd.
After he stated his desire to change everything when he was appointed, Setien seems to have Valverde-fied himself.
All but one of his league victories as Barcelona boss have come by just a one-goal difference but, now he’s had the chance to properly work with his squad, we could see a different Blaugrana during the remainder of the season.
For the first time as Barcelona coach, Setien has Suarez fit and available.
In their return to action after a suspension of coronavirus, Barcelona face Real Mallorca at 2am (Bangladesh Time).
Source: Marca English