Andy’s latest “The Madrid-Barca Axis” column.
Johan Cruyff famously told Pep Guardiola that ‘the second season is harder than the first season and the third season is harder than the second season.’
As Luis Enrique embarks on his third season at Barcelona the summer additions to the squad along with early team selections suggest that rotation is going to be the emphasis.
Having returned with the treble in his debut season and the double in his second everyone at the club will be keen for this success to continue.
In adding Paco Alcacer, Jasper Cillessen, Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes, Denis Suarez and Samuel Umtiti the club have seemingly looked at increasing the depth to the squad.
With no marquee signings as such, due to the nature of the transfer window, reinforcements have been called upon to battle on all fronts.
With the demands of maintaining league form along with the rigorous demands of a Champions League campaign the ability to rotate becomes vital.
The club are clearly aided by their attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez who combined scored a total of 131 goals for the club in all competitions last season.
What is clear though is that the defence and midfield stability must remain in order to provide the platform for the trio to flourish.
Andres Iniesta is an integral piece of the Barcelona puzzle and his longevity will be aided by the arrival of Gomes and Suarez who will add the quality when he is not required.
The loss of Daniel Alves in the summer was always going to be a key facet of the Barcelona make-up this season. With his incredible understanding with Messi and the sheer amount of assists he provided the pressure on whoever steps into his shoes is great.
With Digne and Umtiti arriving the club are looking to the future as well. With Martin Montoya also moving on, the young French full-back should see plenty of game time this year.
What Enrique has to get right though is when to leave his star players out and when he can rely on one of his alternatives to do the job for the coach.
It is one of the hardest aspects of a manager’s role and the rotation of his front three will be pivotal in the club’s fortunes.
Already a loss at home to Alaves has raised eyebrows about Enrique’s selections, but it will take a little time for the new arrivals to adjust.
The demands and pressures placed on players at the highest levels means that their physical conditions need to be at the optimum for them to succeed on a consistent basis.
Rest and recovery time has become a huge part of top level sport and the ability of a coach to rotate his side without affecting results is key.
Barcelona are fortunate enough to play a number of high profile fixtures both domestically and in Europe and having their best players at their peak levels makes victory more likely.
Maintaining success in any sport is one of the hardest things to achieve.
Opponents analyse you closer and look for weaknesses more than before and in order to counter this you need to remain ahead of the others.
Allowing the likes of Iniesta, Messi, Neymar and Suarez to rest will ensure that they remain at their peak for longer periods of time.
Having the necessary replacements is what Barcelona have attempted to do this summer.
Written by Andy Hunter
Follow Andy on Twitter @hunter67980
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