Barcelona have had a bit of an up-and-down preseason. After losing to Bayern Munich 2-0 in July, the team took out their ire on Valerenga, beating them 7-0.
Following that, the Catalans drew with Lechia Gdansk, 2-2. That fueled another drubbing, this time of Neymar's former club, Santos, 8-0.
Now, the team will face Thailand. With just three preseason matches before August 21st's Supercopa match against Real Madrid, Barcelona should be sanding off the edges and really pushing into form as the season draws near.
Let's preview this friendly against Thailand.
When: Wednesday, August 7 at 8 a.m. ET
Where: Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand
Watch: beIN Sport
Streaming: beIN Sport Play
What They're Saying
As Francesc Tomas of ESPN notes, Barcelona are starting a new era under new coach Gerardo Martino. And so far, so good, it seems.
After adhering to a fairly rigid formation for years under Pep Guardiola and then for one with Tito Vilanova, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell surprised the majority of the media by appointing a largely unknown manager whose most remarkable achievement was reaching the Copa Libertadores semifinals with Libertad in 2006 and Newell's Old Boys this year.
After recovering from the initial shock, and having heard him speak to the Catalan media about his upcoming challenge, I must say that the decision to put El Tata in charge of the Camp Nou giants seems to make more and more sense as time goes by. The favorable results and visible improvements in the preseason so far are helping turn public opinion in his favor.
The way his previous clubs prioritized controlling the attacking game is a highly encouraging element to look for in upcoming matches. Blaugrana supporters simply wouldn't understand a drastic change of style now; neither would the players. I would love for Martino to emphasize the need for meaningful possession, which leads to a mixture of shots both from inside and outside the area.
What to Watch For
While there is a good chance Neymar won't play against Thailand, as he was recently diagnosed with anemia, all eyes would obviously be on the Brazilian starlet if he was on the pitch.
Obviously, with stars like Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, etc., there is plenty of first-rate talent to observe. But for Barca, at least in the preseason, the younger talent is more intriguing.
Will players like Martin Montoya, Cristian Tello, Marc Bartra and Sergi Roberto prove to Martino they deserve more regular roles than they were given last season? The emergence of Marc Bartra would be particularly important, as it would soothe some fears about Barcelona's obvious need at centre-back.
The preseason is also an excellent chance to see how second-team players are performing. For example, can players like Alex Song make bigger marks on the team this season? Since Messi and Neymar seem destined to occupy two of the forward spots, who will win the competition for the remaining spot? Alexis Sanchez, Pedro or Tello?
With Manchester United chasing Fabregas like a schoolboy with a crush, will Martino allay any fears the player might have about a diminished role and keep him in the starting 11 on a regular basis? And will Fabregas be playing in his more preferred midfield role, or will he be pushed out wide?
In many aspects, this is as important a preseason as Barcelona have had in some time. A new manager. A new superstar in Neymar. The chance to work in some of the younger players as an older generation—Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Dani Alves, Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes—winds down.
Barcelona can't be the same team it was last year—the one that was dominated by Bayern Munich. Thus, every preseason game is a chance to see how the evolution of the club is progressing. The game against Thailand is no exception.
Which team wins?
Poor Thailand. This is a David versus Goliath situation—if, you know, Goliath actually won the exchange. And was holding a rocket launcher against David's sling. And was wearing a helmet. And if David had really poor depth perception.
You get the idea. Barcelona should win this match fairly handily, 6-0.