2014 UEFA Champions League: 5 Reasons Why Barcelona Will Win
Barcelona Looks to Take Back the UEFA Champions League Trophy In 2014
The 2013-14 season has been one of slight change for Barcelona as new manager Gerardo Martino has brought in a fresh voice after the reign of Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova, who were both raised upon the long entrenched values of La Masia. Of course Martino has largely built on what these two accomplished, but his persistence on moving the ball up the field with a bit more pace has brought in a bit of life to Barcelona and also has taken a bit of time for fans and players alike to adjust to.
With nearly two-thirds of the current season now done with, it could be said that Martino has a lot of work to do before being crowned a mastermind. Barcelona sits three points behind first place Atletico Madrid in La Liga, are in the semifinals of the Copa Del Rey and face Manchester City in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Fans around Barcelona will expect their team to win each of these three championships and will surely not accept a trophy-less season.
Fortunately for Martino the team is now beginning to round into good health as Lionel Messi has returned from a hamstring injury and Carlos Puyol has also returned from injury. The return of these two will be crucial for Barcelona as the club looks to compete on three different fronts, and it will be especially important in the UEFA Champions League, a tournament that each player has won three times. Considering that this will also be the toughest tournament to win because it features some of the best club teams in the world, having a full squad will be a huge relief for Martino.
But aside from just having experience and a healthy squad heading into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages, I have composed five other reasons why Barcelona will win the competition. These reasons are exclusively tied to the strengths that Barcelona possesses throughout their squad instead of teams they may face in the tournament as in the knockout stages there is little doubt that Barcelona will be lining up against another great team.
5. Dominance In the Center of the Park
In the 4-3-3 system that Barcelona plays it is vital that the team has three midfielders who control the tempo of play, and they surely have that. Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta are two of the best players in the world at retaining possession, and the team's mark of 63 percent possession and 86 percent passes completed in the UEFA Champions League shows they have succeeded. Additionally, in Cesc Fabregas the team has a guy who is moving the ball into the final third with a vengeance this season, making for a trio who will dominate any team's midfield.
4. Excellence On the Wings
One of the main things that Gerardo Martino has succeeded in during the current season is getting his wingers more involved and going straight to the goal. This has helped revive the careers of Pedro and Alexis Sanchez as the two rank first and second on the team in La Liga goals. When one adds the immensely talented Neymar to this group, it is clear that Barcelona will make life miserable for opposing fullbacks, inherently limiting their ability to contribute offensively.
3. Veteran Presence In the Back
While Carlos Puyol may not be able to be relied on to stay healthy, Barcelona has a highly talented and tenured center back pairing in Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano. Both Pique and Mascherano have the ability to move the ball out of the back with the best center backs in the world and more importantly can lock down any center forward pairing out there. After being exposed by Bayern Munich last season in the semifinals, Barcelona's center back pairing will revert back to the dominance of the 2011 UEFA Champions League campaign when the team allowed eight goals in 13 games.
2. Barcelona Is Playing More Direct than Ever Before
The new-found directness of Barcelona will help aid the team as a whole during their UEFA Champions League campaign as teams can no longer simply sit back and put ten men behind the ball in defense. This is because Barcelona is now not afraid to attack on the counter attack, and with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez and Pedro in attack, one would imagine they will be lethal in this strategy. All in all, mixing up possessing the ball with an eye for goal will turn the tables against the likes of PSG and Bayern Munich, both of whom Barcelona struggled against last season.
1. The Lionel Messi Factor
When push comes to shove, Barcelona can always count on goals from Lionel Messi when he is healthy. The 26-year-old is the best soccer player in the world, and his mix of trickiness on the ball, lethal shot and ability to break down defenses will ensure that Barcelona is on the board in every game they play. Additionally, after struggling with injuries at this point last term, Messi will be extremely motivated to bring the UEFA Champions League Trophy home for a fourth time which would be simply amazing.