Barcelona's Marc Bartra Can Capitalise on Gerard Pique's Poor Form to Become Key

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistAugust 4, 2014

Marc Bartra has a big chance this season.
Marc Bartra has a big chance this season.Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

Marc Bartra knows that this season is his greatest chance yet to establish himself as a key figure for Barcelona, especially given Gerard Pique's slump.

Bartra, 23, is determined to make his mark as a Blaugrana player this season, after two years in and out of the side.

According to Juan Manuel Diaz in Sport, the defender said:

I've gone through it all, from where I don't play at all, then a few minutes, then I get minutes in important matches. Now I am concentrating day by day, to be in good physical shape and ready to play in the first league game.

The defence has been somewhat of a point of crisis for Barcelona this summer.

Marc Bartra can be a solution.
Marc Bartra can be a solution.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Having lost veteran centre-back Carles Puyol, to injury and then retirement, there was a big gap to fill.

Luis Enrique is believed to want to deploy Javier Mascherano in an anchorman midfield role, which leaves them with just Bartra and Pique.

The latter was in poor form last season, which extended itself into Spain's horrendous World Cup campaign.

Pique himself has admitted that he is no longer close to being one of the best defenders in the world.

He told a press conference:

Right now, I am not among the three best in the world. I cannot be because of the season I had with Barca and the World Cup I had with Spain; I know that to play for Barca, though, you have to be among the three best in the world.

Bartra has been working hard in the gym over the summer, telling Sport's Tomas Andreu in an exclusive interview that he has put on two kilos since the end of last season.

Toughening up: Bartra is putting on weight.
Toughening up: Bartra is putting on weight.Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

He came on at half-time as a substitute for Pique during Barcelona's friendly against Nice on Saturday night.

Pique was at fault for the first-half goal Barcelona conceded, bundling over Dario Cvitanich in the box.

While it was a soft penalty, there was still no need for Pique to get involved with the forward. The player picked himself up and fired home to put Nice ahead.

Xavi later equalised with a penalty of his own in the second half, and Bartra could have scored a goal himself at the death.

He rampaged forward from deep, finding a pocket of space on the edge of the box, but curled his shot wide when he should have hit the target.

The other player Bartra has to worry about in the side is new signing Jeremy Mathieu.

He did not have the greatest of starts to his Barcelona career, with a few misplaced passes, but he settled down before he was taken off.

Mathieu is likely to play on the left side of the central duo in defence, and Bartra can nail the spot alongside him.

Jeremy Mathieu is Barca's main defensive signing.
Jeremy Mathieu is Barca's main defensive signing.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

This is a great opportunity for the youngster, especially if Barcelona do not buy another new defender between now and the end of the transfer window.

He knows Luis Enrique—someone he worked with while the coach was in charge at Barca B—will give everyone a fair crack of the whip to demonstrate they should be given minutes on the pitch.

All Bartra needs to do is keep calm and take his chance when it comes.