Luis Enrique counts on a great variety of options for the defensive positions
As if it was a Swiss Army knife, Barcelona's defense will have multiple weapons and variables for this season. For the first time in many summers we won't have the need to sign a center-back, because last season the place was well covered with Piqué, Mascherano, Bartra and Mathieu. In addition, this year we will have Vermaelen, who could not debut until the last day of the season and is one of signings this summer.
Regarding the positions of the full-backs, Dani Alves hasn't finally left and renewed in extremis. The competition increased with the arrival of Aleix Vidal. Montoya is the only low in this position and Jordi Alba, Adriano and Douglas are the options of the left side without ruling out a possible rise of Grimaldo from Barça B.
Let's analyze positions and challenges for the defense of Barcelona:
Piqué, not abandoning the podium
A year ago, Piqué said that he was no longer on the podium of the best central defenders in the world but that he would struggle to regain the position. After a very controversial start of season (with problems with police or him watching the cellphone during a match on the bench), the center-back regained highest level in January and was providential to achieve the treble. Flawless defense, ensuring the exit of the ball and scoring seven goals, their personal best.
In addition, Piqué played for the squad leader and showed signs of maturing. In the first season A.P. (After Puyol), the team fought in every match and set a brilliant defense. The pair formed with Mascherano combines two different styles that were fantastic. An insurance to be maintained with the competition.
Using every minute
Bartra, Mathieu and Vermaelen are considered other options to the starting couple Piqué & Mascherano in the center-back position.
With 24 years Bartra is aware that this will possibly be his last season in the club if he isn't starter. He always comply but has not really done that step forward to be considered starter. Neither Tito nor Tata nor Luis Enrique ended trusting him in big games, so the Academy-former center-back will have to give a plus in every minute and also in each training.
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The signing of Mathieu for €20 million was questioned last season but his performance was remarkable. A savior goal against Celta and also against Madrid meant the center-back was amortized. Their passing game and speed are the main virtues of a center-back who has always fulfilled on the field.
The Belgian Vermaelen is the great unknown. In good time at Arsenal was considered a good center-back but he accumulated a couple of years without playing regularly because of injuries. If he is physically strong, he can be a plus for Barcelona with a quality player who takes the ball very well and is also strong in defending. We'll see if he is mentally ready to return to perform at the highest level.
Alves can't relax
After seven seasons with no one that could take him away, a right-back has come from Sevilla to compete Dani Alves' starting condition. It may not be until January 2016, but Aleix Vidal arrives like a rocket to be Jordi Alba's right version. Fast worker and converted to a full back by Unai Emery, the footballer has a long way to go in Barcelona and will try to complicate the Brazilian's life.
With the renewal under his arm after a good season, Dani Alves has the challenge of maintaining the level and be protagonist in the field more than in the social networks. The surreal press conference to force the renewal did not improve his public image and the Camp Nou will not make any concessions.
Meanwhile, Douglas will try to take advantage of the matches Alves won't be able to play until 2016. In the first press conference, Luis Enrique said he wanted to see the player's version they saw when he was in Brazil and that he had no excuses because he had passed the first adapting year in Europe. Without competition Montoya has the challenge to prove that the player can be valid and remove the tag of one of the strangest signings in the history of the club.
Regarding the position of the left-back, no doubts that the owner is Jordi Alba. He was one of the most consistent players last season and does not have much competition. Always offering aid, he has a good rapport with Neymar and Iniesta and he is often a key player in the defense despite being usually in an attacking position.
Adriano is not presented as direct competition but always fulfilled when he had to play. However, he does not rule out a possible departure this summer to a team where he can get more minutes and get the last good contract of his career. In this case, do not rule out the chance of the rise of Alejandro Grimaldo, one of the most promising full-backs, aged 19.