Predicting Barcelona's First-Choice Defence for the Forthcoming Season

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Predicting Barcelona's First-Choice Defence for the Forthcoming Season
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Just who will populate Barca's back line this season?

Barcelona have gone through their most extensive period of refurbishment for some years this summer. Some would contend it has been more of a revolution rather than evolution.

With over a month left of the transfer window it's fairly likely that some more new faces will come in, with perhaps one or two more leaving.

As such, this "new" Barca has very definitely got Luis Enrique's stamp all over it. No piecemeal changes here. A root and branch clear-out so that "Lucho" can go about his work in exactly the right environment and with the right staff on board.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
There's no doubting that this is Luis Enrique's team. The last vestiges of Tata Martino's reign have disappeared.

Whether that blend is ultimately successful we will find out in nine months' time, but in order for any team to be involved at the business end when silverware is up for grabs, then a settled and miserly defence is a pre-requisite from the get-go.

And this is the one area which might trip Barcelona up again this season.

Although €20 million has had to be spent to secure the services of Jeremy Mathieu, Enrique can at least point to having another true centre-back in-situ alongside Gerard Pique. It's a reasonable justification despite the spend.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Barcelona were forced to pay €20 million for the services of Jeremy Mathieu.

Whilst Javier Mascherano had filled the role to the best of his ability, his lack of height meant a failure to deal with crosses and high balls into the box. This inevitably resulted in goals against and in the latter part of last season, dropping valuable points away from home.

After an immaculate World Cup where he was arguably player of the tournament, Mascherano gave the best possible reasons why he needs to be played in his natural position of defensive midfield from now on.

In order to accommodate him there, however, Sergio Busquets must either drop to the bench or Enrique must dispense with the tried and tested 4-3-3 template that the Catalans use religiously.

Andres Kudacki/Associated Press
Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets will only play together again if Barca drop their 4-3-3 template.

Pique, you would imagine, is the only fixture in the back line at this juncture, which is in itself a worry.

Marc Bartra has been hammering at the door for as long as we can remember and only really got some on-pitch action after Pique himself got injured.

The youngster certainly didn't disgrace himself at the back end of last season, so you have to wonder why Enrique felt it necessary to rubber-stamp such a large outlay for a soon-to-be 31 year old Mathieu.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Is Marc Bartra ever going to get a decent run in the team?

Furthermore, why are Barca still intent on going after Paris Saint Germain's Marquinhos, per Spanish radio station Cadena Ser (h/t talkSPORT)? Or Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen, per The Sun (h/t Daily Mirror). Do they even need either player in their ranks now?

Dani Alves continues to drain the club's coffers, and despite best efforts to move him on, the Brazilian still remains at Camp Nou. Even cash-rich PSG have baulked at Alves' wage demands, according to Le Parisien (via M.C. Torres of Marca).

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Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado is another linked with the club, according to Jamie Anderson of the Daily Express, but he would be unable to join until Alves has vacated the right-back position.

Jordi Alba's position seems secure on the left side but only because of Adriano Correia's heart problem. The Brazilian certainly gave Alba a run for his money last season, and the biggest compliment that can be paid to Adriano would be that Alba wasn't missed during his periods of injury and recuperation.

Don't be surprised to see Alba joined in the back four by Alves, Pique and Mathieu, as Luis Enrique starts off the season with the tried and tested.

Do keep an eye out for a number of disgruntled employees in the background, though.

A wholly unsatisfactory situation for a manager who wants to hit the ground running at the start of the season.

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