This all depends on whether the fixture goes ahead on Oct. 25 or 26, as the last day of Suarez's four-month ban for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup just so happens to be the former. Popular writer Sid Lowe explains this may just be a coincidence:
Before conspiracy theories start, FCB-RM is always around that date. It's a conspiracy insofar as it's blocked to stop it being in first wks— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) July 24, 2014
That said, it is a teensy bit convenient. Mind you, officially he's not allowed to even train til then so there's no way he'd be match fit.— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) July 24, 2014
The exact dates of many La Liga fixtures are left open until a couple of weeks before kick-off, meaning Suarez is unlikely to know until mid-October. If he fails to appear in El Clasico, his first appearance will come against Celta Vigo on Nov. 2.
The Catalans—at least by their ridiculously lofty expectations—suffered a disappointing campaign last year. They finished three points behind a resurgent Atletico Madrid in La Liga, lost to hated rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final and bowed out of the Champions League quarter-finals against—once again—Atleti.
It marked the first season since 2007-08 that Barca had failed to capture silverware in any of the three major competitions.
Now, Lionel Messi and Co. will attempt to right those wrongs. Their potential route to success is plotted with the fixture release, detailed below:
|Aug. 24||Elche (h)|
|Aug. 31||Villarreal (a)|
|Sept. 14||Athletic Bilbao (h)|
|Sept. 21||Levante (a)|
|Sept. 24||Malaga (a)|
|Sept. 28||Granada (h)|
|Oct. 5||Rayo Vallecano (a)|
|Oct. 19||Eibar (h)|
|Oct. 26||Real Madrid (a)|
|Nov. 2||Celta Vigo (h)|
|Nov. 11||Almeria (a)|
|Nov. 23||Sevilla (h)|
|Nov. 30||Valencia (a)|
|Dec. 7||Espanyol (h)|
|Dec. 14||Getafe (a)|
|Dec. 21||Cordoba (h)|
|Jan. 4||Real Sociedad (a)|
|Jan. 11||Atletico Madrid (h)|
|Jan. 18||Deportivo (a)|
|Jan. 25||Elche (a)|
|Feb. 1||Villarreal (h)|
|Feb. 8||Athletic Bilbao (a)|
|Feb. 15||Levante (h)|
|Feb. 22||Malaga (h)|
|Mar. 1||Granada (a)|
|Mar. 8||Rayo Vallecano (h)|
|Mar. 15||Eibar (a)|
|Mar. 22||Real Madrid (h)|
|Apr. 5||Celta Vigo (a)|
|Apr. 8||Almeria (h)|
|Apr. 12||Sevilla (a)|
|Apr. 19||Valencia (h)|
|Apr. 26||Espanyol (a)|
|Apr. 29||Getafe (h)|
|May 3||Cordoba (a)|
|May 10||Real Sociedad (h)|
|May 17||Atletico Madrid (a)|
|May 24||Deportivo (h)|
A New Start
Looking to erase last year's failings from the memory bank will be a team that has a much different look about it. Long-time Barca great Carles Puyol has retired, goalkeeper Victor Valdes is leaving Camp Nou, and Cesc Fabregas has made the move to Chelsea.
The latter of those departures may hurt the most, as WhoScored.com noted in May:
Cesc Fábregas: Has created more clear-cut chances (27) than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season; Ibrahimovic second (24)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 8, 2014
Puyol, however, isn't worried about his former teammates.
''It's not the end of a Barca cycle," he said upon his retirement, per the AP (via Sports Illustrated). "One stage has come to an end but this team is strong and young."
Barca's defence is still a slight question mark, but the additions of Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo in goal will certainly help. The £16 million capture of Jeremy Mathieu will also provide experience at the heart of the back four.
In attack, transcendent superstar Messi, after scoring "only" 28 goals because of injury last year, proved during the World Cup he is completely healthy while Neymar and the addition of Luis Suarez complete the most dangerous, unfair trio in the world.
The Brazilian will have to work back from his fractured vertebrae, and Suarez is facing a suspension, but Barcelona have the depth and talent to tread water until they are back to full strength.
The matches to circle on the calender are obvious: the battles against Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Barca handled the other two parts of Spain's dominant threesome in La Liga last season, capturing eight points in four matches. They beat Real Madrid in both meetings while drawing with Atletico twice.
However, when most was on the line, the Catalans often withered under the pressure.
With a chance to win La Liga on the last day of the season, they gave up an early lead and drew with Atletico. In the Copa del Rey final, Gareth Bale put on the jets in the 85th minute to propel Real Madrid. In the Champions League quarters, they went home earlier than they had in seven seasons after failing to find the back of the net in the second leg against Atletico.
While finding a way past the other two powerhouses is priority No. 1, it will be crucial for Barcelona to remain consistent throughout the season.
The Catalans went unbeaten in their first 14 matches and lost just once in their first 21 last year. However, they lost three of their next six, and after winning five in a row after that, suffered another untimely defeat in April before drawing their final three matches.
Where will Barcelona finish in La Liga in 2014-15?
Two losses came against lowly Real Valladolid, who were relegated, and Granada, who were just two points clear of the drop zone. A victory against either—they smashed both by a combined score of 8-1 in the other two meetings—wins Barca the league.
It was undoubtedly a roller-coaster ride, and evening out the bumps will prove vital in returning to the top of the league.
For Barcelona, arguably the most consistently dominant team in the world over the past five years, that should prove to be no problem.