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Is Barcelona still Madrid’s biggest threat this season?

Neymar who?

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Supercopa de Espana: 2nd Leg Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

There’s no doubt that the start of the La Liga season has felt a bit odd. With the recent off-season drama, the league seems a bit out of whack. It is not because clubs lost players or hired new managers, the weirdness solely comes from Barcelona’s camp.

It’s rare to see Barcelona in a state of panic. They lost Neymar to PSG and just recently lost Luis Suarez to injury until mid-September. They bought Tottenham reject Paulinho for an unnecessarily amount of money and for some reason still have injury-prone Thomas Vermaelen, who has only made 11 La Liga appearances since joining in 2014, on their team sheet. Aging club captain Andres Iniesta is nursing a muscular injury and central midfielder Rafinha is dealing with a meniscus problem. Both of their return dates are unknown. Backup winger Arda Turan is reported to on his way out of the Camp Nou due to lack of game time, which is disappointing after he sat out half a year to join the club.

To wrap up this cacophony of problems, Barcelona is going into their first season under the command of newly appointed manager Ernesto Valverde, who joined following Luis Enrique’s seldom departure.

All of these issues will be resolved in time but what we’re seeing now is not the typical Barcelona. They have gone from fielding one of the best front threes of all time to starting Messi up top alongside forever-on-loan Gerard Deulofeu and out-of-sorts Paco Alacacer.

Even with this downgraded front three, Barcelona was able to win their first match of the La Liga season. They defeated last year’s fifteenth placed side Real Betis, 2-0. Goals came from Alin Tosca (OG) and Sergi Roberto.

The Catalans may have won their first game of the season but the negativity began following their collapse against Real in the Super Cup. Typically, the El Clasico is glorious but August’s clashes were not. Madrid strolled through the cup winning on aggregate 5-1.

The Super Cup can be written off as an over-glorified pre season trophy but it still holds significance for clubs of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s stature. They both exist in a world where trophies matter, and I’m certain Valverde would have liked to start his new managerial campaign with a trophy.

Watching Barcelona be throttled by Madrid revealed the two side’s contrasts. Madrid is on top of their game and retains a squad full of chemistry and enigma. Barcelona is on a low and is trying to patch the wounds.

While Barcelona attempts to fix their issue, Madrid should skate right on by. The Catalan club will likely struggle against larger sides while Madrid will triumph simply. I expect Barcelona to make the league entertaining towards the final weeks but for now, they don’t seem to be much of a threat.

Clubs like Valencia, Sevilla, Villarreal, and Atleti should make the season eventful, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Barcelona finished out of the top two or three this season. For all we know, it could be like the 2013-14 La Liga season again, where Atleti won the title.

Barcelona has a lot of work to do to get back on track. They still possess a world class squad and can easily fix the problem. In no way we should write them off. The season is still young and there is plenty of football to be played. But in the meantime, Barcelona do not like a major contender for Real Madrid.

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