Ernesto Valverde has brought newfound defensive solidity to the Camp Nou, with his current Barcelona team having the best defence in Europe.
Los Cules are heading into the final stretch of the season knowing they could win the treble and finish the domestic season without defeat, an unimaginable feat when you consider the mood around the club when Neymar departed.
There is a solid foundation behind all these successes and they’ve conceded just two goals in the Champions League for a reason.
That reason is the defence, who’ve been impenetrable at times this season, allowing Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to shoulder much of the attacking responsibility without concern of what was going on behind them.
After being drawn against Roma in the Champions League, as well as facing Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final, there is a feeling that the Blaugrana can achieve significant success this season.
One of Valverde’s goals when he arrived at the club was to ensure the team was stronger, as Luis Enrique’s era ended with the team conceding sloppy goals.
Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic have been given additional responsibility in a two-man midfield and their performances have been outstanding.
The pair have protected the defence, whilst Samuel Umtiti’s performances have taken a lot of pressure off of an ageing Gerard Pique.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen has improved notably in goal, developing into a world class goalkeeper who is in line to win the Zamora trophy.
The true testament to the Catalan team’s defensive success comes with their Champions League record, as they have conceded eight fewer goals than Manchester City and 12 fewer than Juventus, the next best defences in the competition.
In a grand total of 37 matches in LaLiga and the Champions League, Barcelona have let in just 15 goals, averaging one every 234 minutes.
Pique and Umtiti have been one of the best defensive partnerships in Europe this season, and it’s little wonder that the club are eager to tie the Frenchman down to an improved contract.
The 2016/17 season saw the Spanish veteran begin to make mistakes, with a suspicion he was on the decline.
Umtiti’s energy has boosted Pique, the Spanish international distributing the ball well whilst the former Lyon star deals with immediate danger.
Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto aren’t the star names many fans would like, but they do a solid job, whilst Jordi Alba has taken his game to a completely new level on the left.
There are, of course, concerns about Barcelona’s attacking philosophy under Valverde as they have lacked genuine width at times, however, it’s impossible to argue that the former Athletic Club coach hasn’t brought with him an incredibly strong defensive game-plan that could characterise a historic season at the Camp Nou.