Predicting Barcelona's Starting XI This Season

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2014

Predicting Barcelona's Starting XI This Season

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    It has been a summer of change at Barcelona so far, and they’re not done yet.

    Old faces have left, a series of new ones have arrived and there is outstanding business still to be done.

    However, despite all the changes, when you actually look at the Barcelona squad, there remains a familiar feel to it ahead of the 2014-15 campaign.

    The following slides take a look at a possible Barca XI for the new season.

Goalkeeper

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    Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

    For years, Victor Valdes has completely ruled between the Barcelona posts, but over the coming season, the story is going to be slightly different.

    Valdes' decision to leave the club when his contract expired opened the door for a new goalkeeper, and Barca have ushered two new faces in to fight it out for the No. 1 jersey.

    Young Marc-Andre ter Stegen arrives from Germany with a lot to prove, although it is anticipated he will be the club's stopper for the best part of the next decade.

    However, with a lack of top-level experience and having never played in Spain, he may find himself sitting out spells of his first season at Camp Nou.

    Instead, Claudio Bravo, a new signing from Real Sociedad, may occupy the goal.

    In truth, though, both will probably rotate; in fact, it's almost becoming trendy for Europe's top clubs to have two top goalkeepers.

Right-Back

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    Barcelona's right-back position is still up for debate.

    As of today, Dani Alves is still their right-back, and the Brazilian international still has a year to run on his Barca contract.

    And if he decides to see that deal out, the Catalan club may not be able to pursue their interest in Colombia and Fiorentina star Juan Cuadrado, according to Tomas Andreu of SPORT:

    Paris Saint-Germain have withdrawn from any deal involving Dani Alves, which could leave the Brazilian at Barcelona to see out the remaining year on his contract.

    That of course has a knock on effect as far as Cuadrado is concerned. If Alves doesn't leave and the Blaugrana don't recieve any money for him, it makes signing the Colombian international difficult.

    Cuadrado's natural position is further up the pitch, but Barcelona see him as the perfect candidate to fill Alves' attacking role at the club.

Centre-Back 1

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    As things stand, there are few men more assured of their place in Luis Enrique's Barcelona side than Gerard Pique.

    The Catalan central defender, as well as being very good when he is on song, has little, possibly even no competition for his place as of yet.

    And it is for that reason that he will once again be a regular in the Barca side next season.

Centre-Back 2

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    Jacques Brinon/Associated Press

    The only genuine candidate to partner Pique at the moment is Marc Bartra, but it's anticipated he will play a back-up role once again with Barcelona expected to sign a central defender.

    That said, they've been expected to sign a defender for three years now.

    According to Frederic Martin of Catalan newspaper SPORT, there are two targets: Paris Saint-Germain's Marquinhos to come straight into the side and Valencia's Jeremy Mathieu to provide experience and versatility.

    However SPORT's Albert Masnou writes that PSG do not want to sell Marquinhos, which could lead to Barca having to reopen negotiations with other targets.

Left-Back

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    Spain left-back Jordi Alba will once again be Barcelona's left-back next season.

    A 2012 signing from Valencia, the 25-year-old quickly adjusted to make the left side his own at Camp Nou, and there seems no reason why that will change under Enrique.

    The only concern Barca do have is that Alba and Dani Alves, or Cuadrado, are so attacking, there is not a full-back to provide cover and tuck in alongside the central defenders.

    That will not be a new concern though.

Midfielder 1

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    It may seem like Sergio Busquets has been around forever, but the Barcelona player will only turn 26 on Wednesday (July 16).

    An integral part of the Barca style since the Pep Guardiola era, Busquets is likely to continue to play an important role under Enrique over the next 12 months.

    What out for those drag backs, too.

Midfielder 2

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    Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

    With Cesc Fabregas at Chelsea and Xavi Hernandez expected to downgrade leagues, Barcelona's midfield three could have a slightly different look to it next season.

    As La Masia graduates and consistent performers, Busquets and Andres Iniesta are expected to regularly take two of the three roles, which leaves two very different players vying for the final position in the middle.

    Argentina hero Javier Mascherano, who has been playing in defence for Barca, will revert back to midfield next season, and it will be interesting to see if Enrique is prepared to pair him and Busquets in the same trio.

    The other option is an entirely different type of player: Ivan Rakitic.

    These four players will likely sculpt the midfield for all of Barca's big games, with rotation applied in the lesser games, while youngsters Rafinha and Sergi Roberto will also be hoping for some minutes.

Midfielder 3

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    With Valdes gone, Carles Puyol retiring and Xavi's future pending, Iniesta is set to become one of the spearheads of this side, if he wasn’t already.

    Now 30, there is no reason to believe that a player with his set of abilities will slow down over the next few seasons.

    In fact, he may even get better.

    Enrique will certainly be building an XI around Iniesta in what is being touted a "new-look" Barcelona side.                

Right Forward

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Barcelona's front three dictates itself next season.

    Gerard Deulofeu and Pedro Rodriguez will add a La Masia flavour, but when push comes to shove, it will be Lionel Messi and a certain other two superstars lining up for Enrique.

    After disappointment in the World Cup final with Argentina and a season without a major trophy for Barca, Messi will be keen to have an explosive year in 2014-15.

    In a rejuvenated Barca side, the 27-year-old will be one of the players the club look to for leadership.

Central Forward

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    You don't spend around €80 million on someone to come in and keep the bench warm, so Luis Suarez, once he returns from his ban, will be a definite starter for Barca.

    The former Liverpool forward has taken the No. 9 shirt left vacant by Alexis Sanchez's departure to Arsenal, although he'll be expected to play a more traditional striker's role than that played by the Chilean international at Camp Nou.

    If he can match the 31 goals he scored in the Premier League last season, Barcelona will be a third of a way to recreating the Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o, Messi front three from 2009.

Left Forward

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    Celso Junior/Getty Images

    Completing the lineup is Brazilian star Neymar.

    After an up-and-down first season in Spain, which was made harder by off-the-field problems, the 22-year-old will hope to have a more explosive second season.

    Unfortunately, he's been set back by an injury he picked up at the World Cup, but once he returns, he will look to replicate his Brazilian form in Blaugrana.

    This could be a big year for him.