Luis Enrique's Key Tactical Decisions Before Luis Suarez Returns

Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2014

Luis Suarez is back in training but still suspended.
Luis Suarez is back in training but still suspended.Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

Luis Suarez returns to Barcelona playing duty late in October when his biting suspension ends, but until then Luis Enrique has several tactical decisions to make.

The first is what he's going to do with his forward line.

It would be simple to use last year's selection, with Neymar on the left, Lionel Messi in the middle and Pedro on the right.

Obviously Messi has his usual licence to roam, leaving gaps for Neymar and for Pedro to exploit.

Leo Messi could be used in attacking midfield.
Leo Messi could be used in attacking midfield.Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

However, many believe that Enrique might want to utilise a different formation this season, with Messi playing in attacking midfield, behind a spiky forward duo of Neymar and Suarez.

To save the side from having to adjust upon Suarez's return, Enrique might want to start off with that formation now.

That means we may see, at least in some matches, a chance for Barca B striker Munir El Haddadi to play.

He has been in fine form in pre-season and is still training with the first-team squad, even though some other Barca B players are no longer doing so.

The Joan Gamper Trophy match against Mexican outfit Leon on Monday night should reveal a lot about how Barcelona want to play this season.

It is expected that Enrique will use the last friendly game before La Liga kicks off to organise his side in the style he is planning on utilising.

Luis Enrique's side play on Monday night.
Luis Enrique's side play on Monday night.Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

However, until Enrique has his favoured forward line, we could see a Barcelona side that lines up in a similar fashion to last season, if he does not want to gamble on the youth of Munir.

Another issue of interest is what will happen to Javier Mascherano.

With a front three of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, Barcelona will need the midfield to work hard and do the defensive duties of more than three men.

We could see Sergio Busquets and Mascherano deployed in a double-pivot role, to provide a solid defensive base for the attack to build on.

However, playing with two defensive midfielders is not the Barcelona way.

Ivan Rakitic could be used with Busquets to provide a bit more dynamism and attacking thrust, with Andres Iniesta sitting at the peak of the midfield.

Mascherano could then be used in the bigger games, or the tough away matches.

Until Suarez joins, Enrique might wonder how he is going to get the team to produce more goals, given that one of the top scorers from last season has left, in Alexis Sanchez.

Cesc Fabregas, particularly in the first part of the season, was also a key provider of assists and chances.

Barca have lost Cesc Fabregas' creativity.
Barca have lost Cesc Fabregas' creativity.Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

It wouldn't be any surprise at all to see Barcelona score more goals from set pieces this season. Their defensive reinforcements, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen, are both good in the air.

Mathieu is an impressive physical specimen, and while Vermaelen is not as tall, he has an excellent leap.

Furthermore, Rakitic is an expert at delivering set pieces which are easy for his team-mates to convert.

Where Barcelona would usually pass a long-range free-kick opportunity to get the ball rolling again, we may see a few launched into the box this season, to capitalise on the team's increased aerial ability.