FC Barcelona: Predicting the Starting XI for Next Season
We are just a little over a month away from the start of the 2012-13 La Liga season and a few days removed from the Euro 2012 finale.
What does that mean? Well if you're like me, you are starting the process of football withdrawal, looking for any fix to hold you over.
So let's talk about the reigning Copa del Rey champions and the winners of two of the last four Champions League titles.
Most of FC Barcelona's players are coming off a European title with Spain and should be primed for an attempt to retake their La Liga crown.
But who will lead their team along the way?
Here are predictions for Barca's Starting XI next season.
GK: Victor Valdes
Valdes may not have played a second in his nation's Euro 2012 triumph, but he has been a loyal servant to Barca through the years.
At just 30 years of age, there's no reason he should not make this his tenth consecutive season as the first choice keeper at Barcelona.
RB: Dani Alves
Alves may have lost his starting role for the last month or so of the season, but expect him to win it back.
After all, the 29-year-old Brazilian has been a staple of the defense since 2008 and has dedicated himself to regaining his position.
CB: Gerard Pique
Pique apparently had a rift with Pep Guardiola, fueling great speculation of a transfer to his old club Manchester United.
There's only one problem: Pep is gone. What rift exists now?
I expect Pique to start here.
If he does get transferred, though, this spot could go to Javier Mascherano.
CB: Carles Puyol
With the acquirement of Jordi Alba, the Barca captain should shift back into the centre of defense.
There, he will lead his team and be the rock he has proved capable of being.
But first thing's first: he must get over any lingering injuries and return to full form.
Easier said than done, though, as he has had trouble with his knees over the past few years.
There is a reason that Barca has been rumored to have been looking at David Luiz.
LB: Jordi Alba
We all knew Jordi Alba was a great defender, but we didn't know he was this good.
His performances at Euro 2012 were sublime, capped off by his becoming the first defender to score in a Euro final.
Eric Abidal's injury and probable departure created a small hole for Barca.
That's been filled.
CDM: Sergio Busquets
There is no reason for Busquets to lose his spot.
He provides extra cover in defense, is a fine passer of the ball and is effective in his ventures forward.
His play with Spain at Euro 2012 was pretty good, too.
Eventually, Xavi will get too old to compete at a high level. Just don't tell him that.
The midfielder has proved time and time again that that time is not now and, by all indications, not coming any time soon.
His performance in Spain's Euro final was some of the best football you will see.
LM: Andres Iniesta
I'm not sure what is left for Iniesta to do in his career.
He scored that amazing, last-second winner against Chelsea in the 2009 Champions League semifinal.
He scored the game-winner in extra time of a World Cup final.
Now, he's won top individual honors at a European Championship.
The 28-year-old is a shoo-in to start as much as he can.
RF: Alexis Sanchez
Alexis was brought to Barca last season and performed quite well, ending (a close) second in goals.
Expect him to get even better this season as he becomes more familiar with his teammates.
CF: Lionel Messi
Widely considered the best player in the world, Messi has been playing in the centre of attack since 2010.
The only question is if he can possibly be better this season.
LF: David Villa
This one is a tough call.
Cesc Fabregas was more than capable in this role last season. Meanwhile, Villa is still recovering from that leg injury.
At full fitness, I think Villa starts. However, it is possible he won't return to full fitness or his top form, leaving Fabregas as the logical starter.
Even if it's not at the beginning of the season, I think Villa will eventually have his spot in the starting lineup back.
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