Picking a Barcelona Second-String That Could Still Challenge Europe's Best

Tre' AtkinsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2013

Picking a Barcelona Second-String That Could Still Challenge Europe's Best

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    It is a well-known fact that Barcelona is one of the best clubs in the world today. But something that makes the Catalans so formidable is the great depth they boast in their squad.

    While La Masia stars continue to blossom, it is clear that La Blaugrana will be set for many years to come.

    So what would a second-string Barcelona lineup look like? No doubt it could still challenge at a very high level, though it would obviously not be at the level of Barcelona’s best lineup.

    In this article we take a look at the Barcelona second-string lineup that could challenge the best clubs in Europe.

    For our purposes, the following players will be excluded from selection due to being members of the first-choice Blaugrana lineup.

    Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Cesc Fábregas, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Lionel Messi

Goalkeeper: Jose Manuel Pinto

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    One of the easiest choices to make for the second-string lineup is at the goalkeeper position. With only one other keeper on the first-team squad, Jose Pinto is an obvious choice.

    Though Pinto is not quite at the level of most of Europe’s elite keepers, he is still a very solid player.

    The 37-year-old features in every Copa del Rey match for Barcelona and sees quite a bit of playing time. With his experience, Pinto has the keeper position nailed down.

Right-Back: Martin Montoya

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    Martin Montoya is the unanimous selection for the right-back position based on the fact that he has been making a case to become the full-time starter.

    The young La Masia graduate fits into Barcelona’s system like a glove and is already considered the player of the future. Though most backups are normally a large step down from their starting counterparts, Montoya gives Alves a constant run for his money.

    Martin Montoya has been effective against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo this season. This fact shows that he would protect his area very well against top competition. Keep your eyes out for Montoya.

Center-Back: Marc Bartra

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    Since being promoted to the first-team this summer, Marc Bartra has not seen the field that much (via fcbarcelona). But he would be a solid choice in a second-string lineup and has the ability to become a star.

    In the games that Bartra has played, he has shined. The young Catalan defender made his debut of the season against Celtic in the Champions League and put on a masterful performance.

    To be completely honest, Bartra deserves more time on the pitch.

    The defender shows signs of brilliance that could lead to him becoming the defender of the future, but he must get time on the pitch to prove his worth. However, he has the raw talent to be a strong defender against some of the best.

Center-Back: Javier Mascherano

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    The case of Javier Mascherano at Barcelona is a curious one. The defensive midfielder was converted to a defender and has not played in the midfield for Barcelona since.

    Overall, Mascherano is a very solid defender who uses his brain and ability to hold the back line. But he has had momentary lapses that have cost Barcelona.

    Despite his shortcomings, the Argentine is one of the more obvious choices for a second-string lineup. Mascherano would be the leader of the defense and could anchor the backline against top competition.

    Javier Mascherano would even be in consideration for the title of captain for the Barcelona second-string.

Left-Back: Adriano

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    There may be no second-string player quite as deserving of a starting spot than Adriano. The Brazilian utility player has done it all for Barcelona and is an easy choice for the left-back position.

    Though the Brazilian has played in many positions for Barcelona, left-back is actually his position of choice. Despite being a strong defender, Adriano is more of an offensive weapon.

    The 28-year-old would give the lineup another attacking option down the flank and would be an extremely important player for La Blaugrana.

    It is almost unfair to list Adriano in a backup lineup, as he has been Barcelona’s hero on too many occasions this season to come off the bench.

Defensive Midfielder: Alex Song

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    When Barcelona purchased Alex Song last summer, there were many questions that had to be asked (via Marca). However, Song is now finding his place in the squad and is becoming a strong backup for Sergio Busquets.

    The former Arsenal star was purchased to give cover at both defense and as a defensive midfielder. But the defensive part of Song’s game did not translate well for Barcelona.

    Lately, the Cameroon international has featured solely as a defensive midfielder in place of Sergio Busquets, and that is exactly where he will sit in our second-string lineup.

    Alex Song offers a physical presence and a mild attacking option in defense and would be needed to cover a weaker Barcelona defense for a backup lineup. 

Attacking Midfielder: Thiago

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    Easily the most important player in Barcelona’s second-string lineup would be Thiago. The young midfielder has quickly become one of the brightest stars of the future by being a star of the present.

    Thiago is thought of as the heir to Xavi and he would be responsible for playing that very role in this lineup. The 21-year-old is terrific in possession and is even capable of scoring.

    The Spanish star would be the brains of the Barcelona second-string, and he is already prepared to cause trouble for Europe’s best. Thiago will be a Barcelona starter soon, but he is already contributing on a high level today.

    Thiago may be the first choice to be the captain of this Blaugrana lineup. 

Attacking Midfielder: Sergi Roberto

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    Youth team player Sergi Roberto rounds out the Barcelona midfield in this lineup. With no other capable midfielder left in the first-team, La Blaugrana would have to turn to the young Catalan to secure the position.

    Roberto is very close to being promoted and probably already deserves to be. He is showing wonderful promise and has a future place in the Barcelona squad.

    In a recent article, I compared Sergi Roberto to Andres Iniesta. The comparison is sort of difficult to make, but the 21-year-old is your typical midfielder and would fit in well beside Thiago.

    Though Sergi Roberto is very solid in possession, he does not have a strong attacking sense. He can make runs and finish chances, but Roberto is best served creating opportunities for his teammates.  

Left-Wing: Cristian Tello

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    Cristian Tello is making his case to become a starter by scoring brilliant goals and fitting in well with the Barcelona system. Yet he is still a rotation player at this point and easily makes our second-string lineup.

    The La Masia graduate possesses insane speed and is able to beat almost any defender when left alone. Tello would offer a very strong attack on the left by linking up with Adriano and using his speed to get into the box.

    In the coming years, fans should expect to see Cristian Tello get much more time on the pitch. The 21-year-old is a star in the making and Barcelona will surely want to keep him around.

Right-Wing: Alexis Sanchez

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    Alexis Sanchez has not enjoyed his spell at Barcelona to this point. The young Chilean has been a heavily used rotation player, but would be an easy choice to start in this lineup.

    Sanchez has wonderful speed, and like Tello, has the ability to beat defenders. Sanchez’s best play comes when he gets into the box, and that is exactly what Barcelona is about.

    Fans will be encouraged lately, however, as Alexis put in a very strong showing in his last game and even found the back of the net (via Goal).

    There is no denying that Sanchez is a wonderful talent who is willing to work hard. But at the moment, everything seems to be going wrong. But in a second-string lineup, Alexis is an easy choice.

Striker: David Villa

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    Quite possibly the easiest selection for this lineup is at the position of striker. Without Lionel Messi available, David Villa is the only choice to replace the Argentine.

    Spain’s all-time leading scorer has always worked well in Barcelona’s system. Though he normally operates on the wing for La Blaugrana, his natural position is in the center of the attack.

    With Villa at the striker position, Barcelona would have a more traditional attacking force. Villa would be the target man and would certainly link up well with both Sanchez and Tello.

    If Thiago is the brains of this lineup, then David Villa is engine. The Spaniard would be the main force in attack and would feel very comfortable doing so.

    This lineup shows that Barcelona has immense depth. Though a second-string squad is clearly not at the level of the first-choice lineup, it is still obviously very strong.

    The Catalans would be wise to use their depth to their advantage going into the toughest time of their season to date. With the treble a real possibility for Barcelona, depth will be the key.

     

    Is there anyone I left out? How strong would this lineup be? Who should be captain? Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.

     

    Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on twitter for more discussions on Barcelona and La Liga.