Barcelona: Can They Be Beaten or Will They Continue to Dominate Europe?
After another season of incredible success for Pep Guardiola and his team, in which they won their third successive league title as well as their third Champions League victory in five years, Barcelona have been billed as unbeatable.
Manchester United, who were far and away the best club in England last season, never looked like overcoming Barcelona, and although Rooney did manage to net an equalizer, "Los Cules" were always comfortable.
While it is difficult to compare the current Barcelona team to the great sides of the past, it is clear that this group of players will continue to get better.
Lionel Messi, the best player in world football today without a doubt, is only 23 and he will continue to grow and mature as a player. It is difficult to ever envisage a scenario where Messi would consider leaving and I believe that he will be a "Barca" player for years to come.
David Villa is a natural born goalscorer and while he has been inconsistent in his first season at the Camp Nou, he was still able to find the net 23 times, including a stunner in the Champions League Final.
The central midfield partnership of Xavi and Iniesta is built on an almost telepathic mutual understanding. They both know where the other will be and their passing ranges are equally sensational.
But is is it possible for anyone to knock Barcelona off their lofty pedestal as Europe's premier club?
Arsenal were able to record a victory over Barcelona at the Emirates, but they went on to capitulate under the onslaught during the return leg.
Real Madrid had been able to keep them contained until, out of nowhere, Messi struck twice to condemn Jose Mourinho to a rare Champions League exit.
It seems that no matter how well you play, Barcelona will always be able to go one better and snatch a goal from nothing.
But this team does have a weakness and it comes in the form of the defense.
Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol have been praised as the best central defensive duo in the world for both club and country, but is this the case?
Puyol remains a warrior who will continually put his body on the line for his beloved team but, as evidenced by the necessity to employ a makeshift replacement in the European Final, he has his injury problems.
At the age of 33, it is difficult for him to stay fit on a regular basis and when he does play, he lacks the pace that is needed to play against some of Europe's top strikers.
There has been much recent praise for Pique and his ability to bring the ball out of defense and sometimes, he almost plays like a midfielder.
But when put under serious pressure, he can make mistakes and he is not as faultless as his reputation.
But the fact of the matter is, Barcelona are so adept at keeping possession and the pressing style of their midfield mean that the defense rarely have to cope with serious pressure.
Next year, if a team wants to try and beat Barcelona, they will need to put pressure on the wing-backs, neither of whom are shining examples of defensive solidarity.
A series of crosses would put pressure on a Barcelona side not famed for their height and could also expose the defensive weaknesses of Pique.
This is why I think that Chelsea could be the side to finally knock off Barcelona if they sort out their managerial problems.
Their team has always been known for size and strength and Fernando Torres knows the Barcelona defense inside out.
Chelsea were better than Barcelona over two legs in 2009 with a late Iniesta heart-breaker, the difference between the two teams.
If Chelsea make the rumored summer signings that would bring the likes of Sneijder and Kaka to the club, the Blues would have a midfield that could compete in terms of skill and passing.
Combined with the energetic nature of Ramires and Essien, Xavi and Iniesta may be put under more pressure than normal.
The changes that will take place at Stamford Bridge over the summer remain to be seen, but if these two giants meet, then everyone cane expect a classic.
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