How Barca could line up next season to win Champions League

Barca are going through a period of generational transition but the club ALREADY have players who are capable of lifting the major European trophy

Defence

Marco Ter Stegen‘s first-team spot is beyond any doubt. It’s hard to recall a single conceded goal when he was the only one to blame, keeping already 18 clean sheets this season in La Liga compared to 13 last term.

Despite multiple reports of Samuel Umtiti‘s uncertain future at the club, with Jose Mourinho circling around and ready to swoop, the Frenchman is unlikely to leave the Catalan team this summer. Overall, his display has been up to the mark, considerably improving on his tackling ratio (from 1.4 to 2.1) compared to the last season, for instance. That said, there were games – like the second leg match against Roma – when Samuel did not quite rise to the occasion.

Gerard Pique‘s form has been patchy this term but he still brings solidity to defence and his leadership qualities in this period of (relative) squad transition are/will be vital for the team due to his sheer experience.

Jordi Alba has greatly improved defensively in the 2017-18 season: Jordi now makes almost twice as many tackles and interceptions as he did previous year in La Liga, let alone the fact that he is one of the top assisters this term in Lal Liga (3rd best with 8 assists), which is quite an achievement for a left back.

Nelsen Semedo looks to have finally shaken off his injury problems; his all-round qualities already make him one of the best full-backs in the world (in defensive terms, even a better option than Dani Alves during his days at Barca), and he still has potential to grow.

Midfield

Indeed, Sergio Busquets is not getting younger and faster.And he may not have impressed a lot defensively this season, especially in the Champions League (vs Chelsea and Roma in particular), but it had to do more with Ernesto Valverde’s tactical set up than with Sergio’s ability to provide cover for the backline. Having that extra third man in the middle of the park would slightly reduce the defensive workload on Busquets allowing him to focus more on what he does best – orchestrating the play and dictating the tempo of the game.

Continuing on that extra man in the midfield, Paulinho is perfectly suited for a box-to-box role as he has proved this season. Sure, there has been a slight dip in form but the main factor behind that was probably the player’s accumulated fatigue after not having a proper rest in summer during his move from China.

The Brazillian magician – Arthur – has already been named the best midfielder of the Brazilian league. His stats for Gremio after recovering from injury are simply outstanding and show why he could be Barca’s the main creative force in the centre of midfield for years to come, performing ‘the Iniesta role’ in a 4-3-3 setup.

Attack 

Philippe Coutinho already looks settled at Barca, putting on a Man of the Match performance in a 2-1 win vs Valencia.  He feels absolutely comfortable playing on either wing of attack, with also drifting to the centre to provide additional creativity in that department and give the team numerical advantage in that area, as it has always been the case during his spell with Liverpool.

In Barca’s away 2-2 draw against Celta there was at least one positive thing: Ousmane Dembele has scored his first ever league goal for the Catalan club, putting on a solid performance. Indeed, this season many fans expected Dembele to really cement his place in the first-team but two serious injuries took their toll at the start of the campaign and it could have been too risky for Ernesto Valverde to hurry up with reinstalling a 20-year-old Dembele in the match squad. Hopefully, from now on Dembele’s story at our club will be all about further improvement to reach the status of the established star.

In a 4-3-3 formation, Leo Messi could go back to his (favourite?) False 9 role in which he thrived under Pep Guardiola. But anyway, is there any formation in which Messi cannot shine? Hardly so. Leo is a true master of tactical adaptations, be it the aforementioned tactical system or Valverde’s 4-4-2. Given that next season, Leo will turn 31 and it may affect his acceleration and pace to some extent, Messi has already shown that he can adjust his style of play to fit new circumstances, which allows him to be the most useful player for the team as he has always been.