Once again FC Barcelona has a chance at winning the treble. Currently sitting in first place in La Liga. Barcelona has a tough road ahead. With 59 points in 23 games, Barca holds what is now turning into a small lead. Atletico Madrid is lurking in second place with 52 points in as many games. Valencia CF follows in third place with 43 points, Real Madrid CF in fourth with 42 points with one game in hand, and Villareal in fifth with 37 points. Barcelona will face Chelsea FC in the round of 16 in UEFA Champions League. As well as the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla FC.
Fatigue is already an issue for Barcelona. The Blaugrana has dropped four points in its last two La Liga games, and only scoring one goal. Ivan Rakitic leads the team in appearances with 35. Lionel Messi is second with 34. Sergio Busquets has 32, and Luiz Suares tallies 31 appearances. All four players have already played as many games as most teams play in one season.
Player-rotation will be a key factor in the Spanish team’s success. Barcelona rosters 22 players, and all have made appearances. Barca are allowed to dip into the Barcelona B team for additional support. Players such as Oriol Busquets, David Costas, Jose Arnaiz, and Carles Alena have suited up for both teams.
To keep players fresh, Valverde will have to give minutes to players like Denis Suarez, Paco Alcacer, Lucas Digne, and Andre Gomes all who have posted decent performances this season. Paco Alcacer is a natural forward who has been utilized as a leftwinger, and right midfielder. Alcacer can give Luis Suarez some rest, but will not have as big of an impact as Suarez as a post-forward. Denis Suarez is his best as a center-mid but has seen minutes at left-mid. Andre Gomes is a wildcard player, not having a specific position, but his natural skills are enough to get him by. Lucas Digne is a tough left-back who can defend like Jordi Alba, but not attack.
Paulinho, Aleix Vidal, Nelson Semedo, Yerry Mina, and eventually Iniesta will all have to be great role players as they will see the most minutes aside from the starting 11. Paulinho has had the greatest impact with the Blaugrana. The Brazilian has scored eight goals since his arrival to Camp Nou in August.
However, too much rotation will hurt the starting players. Leo Messi and Lucho Suarez need playing time to perform at their highest level. Without Busquets in the mid, Barca will struggle to have the balance they would when he plays. Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti are the foundation for Barca’s defense, but small injuries are problems for both. Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba are playing their best football as outside-backs. Coutinho is finally getting the flow of Barcelona’s playing style and will help with their late La Liga push.
Valverde’s team has yet to play Spanish giants Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. Also on the list are Villareal, Sevilla, Valencia, and Celta de Vigo. Barcelona will travel to Basque County to face CD Eibar, an underrated team sitting in seventh place. There will be moments when Barca play up to three games a week, especially if they keep rolling in the Champions’ League playoffs.