While Barcelona might have eventually managed to drag themselves to a silver medal finish last season, the Spanish giants will know that they must run a closer race this time around.
Watching Real Madrid recapture their La Liga crown thanks to a commanding 13-point buffer over their El Clasico rivals, all eyes are on Xavi’s squad.
Undergoing some public financial issues over the past couple of years, Barcelona have found themselves stealing many of the headlines from across Europe this summer. Welcoming a host of superstars to the Nou Camp since the summer transfer window opened up, Xavi’s side should be looking forward to the 2022/23 campaign getting underway. Opening their season against Rayo Vallecano on August 13th, we have taken a look at how Barca can challenge Los Blancos this season.
The Lewandoski effect
While former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might have made an immediate impact when arriving in Catalonia earlier in the year, Xavi’s men have welcomed another European superstar to the Nou Camp.
With it finally announced that Polish icon Robert Lewandowski will be making the move to Spain from Bayern Munich in a deal worth £42.5million, Barca will be looking for the 33-year-old to hit the ground running.
Although the remarkable Karim Benzema might have spearheaded Madrid’s double-winning campaign last season, Lewandowski will certainly give the French international a heavyweight battle for the Golden Boot.
Only continuing to break a string of records since making the move to the Allianz Arena from Borussia Dortmund in 2014, the 132-cap international scored 50 goals in 46 games last season as he helped Bayern win a 10th straight Bundesliga title.
Widely regarded by many across Europe to be the best number nine in world football, Lewandoski’s arrival at the Nou Camp could prove to be vital in Barcelona’s title charge.
Finding defensive stability
Although Barcelona might have laid down a real marker as they announced Lewandoski’s arrival earlier in the week, Xavi must find a way for his side to find some much-needed stability at the back.
While the former Spanish champions might have previously gained a reputation for their rugged defensive displays under the likes of Pep Guardiola, they have gained a recent reputation for their leaky backline.
Signing off the 2021/22 campaign with a 2-0 loss against Villarreal, Barca shipped 38 La Liga strikes last season – a tally that was worse than the likes of Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao.
Announcing the arrival of ex-Chelsea man Andreas Christensen on a free transfer following the 26-year-old’s contract expiring at Stamford Bridge, the Danish defender could be a key part of Xavi’s plans.
Crashing out of the Europa League last season after that stunning 3-2 loss against eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt, Barca could also only muster a pair of clean sheets from their final 11 appearances across all competitions.
Getting the fans on board
Along with watching Christensen and Lewandoski come through the doors this summer, Barcelona have been incredibly busy with getting Xavi’s revolution underway.
Splashing the cash as they finally agreed on a £55million deal with Leeds for Brazilian international Raphinha, Franck Kessie has also arrived on a free transfer from AC Milan. However, while Xavi’s star-studded squad might have welcomed a host of European icons to the Nou Camp, they are still in the midst of real financial jeopardy.
With it announced last year that Barca owed £1.2billion in debt due to some shocking mismanagement by former President Josep Bartomeu, there became a clear disconnect between the hierarchy and their fanbase.
Unable to fully sell out the Nou Camp for their European fixtures last season, the former Champions League winners are trying to start a fresh chapter of trust with a large section of their supporters.
With Xavi being vocal about just how important the Nou Camp support will be in their charge to close the gap on their El Clasico rivals, can Barca claim their first La Liga crown since 2019 this time around?
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