The Catalans might have completed a domestic double, but they faced testing challenges on their way to a successful season.
From pre-season to the closing stages of the campaign, the Catalans have battled through many challenges. The loss of Neymar, the board crisis and a slow start to the season are just a few of the issues that threatened the club’s success this season.
Still, the Blaugrana responded well to the challenges, as they fought their way to both the La Liga and the Copa Del Rey trophies. With that being said, let’s explore the problems that threatened Barcelona’s fantastic season.
#5 Departure of Neymar
In one of Barca’s worst nightmares in recent years, the Catalan giants lost their valued asset Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in a highly complicated deal. The Brazilian departed the Camp Nou in the summer after the French side decided to pay the release clause in his contract worth €222 million.
This was a very big problem for the club, as they did not expect the player to leave after just recently renewing his contract. Moreover, the superstar departed the club when he was needed the most. He was the brightest young player in the squad and he also helped to reduce the workload on the aging Lionel Messi. His departure also brought an end to Barcelona’s popular ‘MSN’ trident, angering the Camp Nou fans.
Neymar’s transfer put Barcelona in a desperate position to sign a replacement. Therefore, they highlighted Borussia Dortmund’s starlet Ousmane Dembele and Liverpool’s playmaker Philippe Coutinho. While they got their hands on the former, they could only recruit the latter in January.
#4 The Super Cup humiliation
After recently losing Neymar to PSG, the Catalans faced Real Madrid in the final of the Spanish Super Cup. The first leg took place at the Camp Nou, in front of the Barcelona fans. As usual, the game started with great intensity, with both teams fighting to claim the trophy and make their fans proud.
Barcelona, however, looked destabilized and could not match the brilliance of their arch-rivals. Real Madrid won the game 3-1 to put themselves in a great position ahead of the second leg. They dispatched the Catalans at home, taking advantage of their difficult situations at the moment.
In the return fixture, Barcelona traveled to the Santiago Bernabeu but were only a mere shadow of themselves. They were totally outplayed by the brilliance of the Galacticos, with the likes of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos giving them a very tough time. Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema both scored as Los Blancos won the game and completed a 5-1 humiliation of their eternal rivals.
That was a big blow to the Catalans. Even the outspoken Gerrard Pique conceded that he felt really inferior to Real Madrid in the encounter.
#3 Luis Suarez’s early poor form
Barcelona entered the season amidst a lot of difficulties. They started the campaign slowly, finding it very difficult to reproduce the kind of performances they are well known for. To add to their problems, Uruguayan striker, Luis Suarez hit a very poor form and was a mere shadow of himself in the opening stages.
The striker was miserable in front of goal scoring just thrice in his first 14 appearances for the club. That was his worst start to a season since he joined Barcelona in the summer of 2014.
His poor form meant that the club found it difficult to score. Even though Lionel Messi enjoyed a prolific campaign in front of goal, it was a very big burden on the Argentine maestro. He carried the team single-handedly on his head, dropping deep to arrange team play and moving forward to put the ball into the back of the net.
#2 Ousmane Dembele’s injury woes
Barcelona thought they had signed an immediate replacement for Neymar when they bought Ousmane Dembele from Dortmund in the summer. Unfortunately for them, things did not go as expected.
The winger suffered a terrible injury in his first La Liga start when Barcelona faced Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez stadium. He picked up the injury when he was trying to back-heel the ball near the corner flag. Dembele raised his hands immediately and sat on the ground, pointing to the back of his leg. He then walked off the pitch and was replaced by Gerard Deulofeu in the 29th minute.
After several tests were conducted, the Catalans reported that the attacker had suffered a hamstring injury in his left leg, and was expected to miss 6-8 weeks of action. This was a big blow to Barcelona, but the club was able to cope with his absence, with Ernesto Valverde forced to switch to the 4-4-2 formation instead.
About 7 weeks later, Dembele returned from his setback. The 20-year old came off the bench to replace Paulinho in the 65th minute as Barca faced Real Sociedad in a La Liga match. Even though the player managed to finish the match, he picked up another injury, suffering a fibrillar rupture to his left thigh.
These occurrences dealt big blows to the club as they waited to reap from their €105 million investment, however, Dembele has put his injury problems behind and has shown promising signs.
He still has a lot to prove at the club, though.
#1 Champions League exit
Barcelona’s impressive dominance from the beginning of the season forced some people to start raising talks of a possible treble, however, their treble hopes were buried when the Catalans were knocked-out of the UEFA Champions League by Roma in the quarterfinals.
The Blaugrana had already established a commanding lead when the two sides met at the Camp Nou for the first leg of the encounter. They won the game 4-1, courtesy of goals from Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez, as well as 2 own goals from the visitors.
The Catalans suffered in the return leg, as they failed to reproduce the kind of brilliance they showed in the initial match. The Romans dispatched them at the Stadio Olimpico, with a fantastic performance that will be remembered for a very long time.
They took the lead early in the first half, scoring in the 6th minute. Edin Džeko received the ball in the area and eclipsed Jordi Alba before perfectly slotting it into the back of the net to put his team ahead.
The Catalans looked frustrated throughout the game.
Shortly after they resumed the second-half, Gerard Pique brought down Edin Dzeko in the box and granted the Romans a vital penalty which Daniel De Rossi converted perfectly. In the 82nd minute, Konstantinos Manolas headed home a corner to secure the semi-final spot for the Italians and concluded a miserable night for the Blaugrana.