Champions League team guide: Barcelona in the spotlight
Last season was Barcelona’s worst points total since 2007-08 — although they still finished third in LaLiga, safely inside the top four by a comfortable 17 points.
Ronald Koeman’s first season in charge did at least see Barca lift their 31st Copa del Rey but it was not a classic campaign at Camp Nou.
That was rather summed up by the fact that, for the first time since the aforementioned 2007-08 season, they lost both LaLiga El Clasico meetings to arch-rivals Real Madrid.
It was also a significant season in the Champions League, with Barca failing to progress beyond the last 16 for the first time in 14 years — going down 5-2 on aggregate to Paris Saint-Germain.
Barcelona's Champions League group
Group E: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kyiv
One of only five teams to have been crowned champions of Europe five times or more, Barca most recently lifted the trophy in 2015 — beating Juventus 3-1 in the final at Berlin’s Olympiastadion.
They also won the European Cup Winners’ Cup four times, as well as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup on three occasions.
As well as their five wins, Barca have been Champions League runners-up on three occasions.
Realistically, expectations at Camp Nou should be lower than they have been in many a year.
With Lionel Messi’s departure after 17 years, it feels every bit like the soul has been ripped out of the club.
And clearly it will have an impact on the pitch. You do not lose a player who has scored 672 club goals and recover overnight.
That said, the signings of Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero ought to go some way to restoring Barca’s attacking potency.
Regardless of the circumstances, a repeat of last season’s early exit will not go down too well, so the quarter-finals surely have to be the minimum aim.
Star man: Sergio Busquets
One of just three members of Pep Guardiola’s iconic side still at the club, Sergio Busquets continues to anchor the Barca midfield with his expected poise and class.
Only three midfielders made more interceptions in LaLiga last season than 33-year-old Busquets, whose tally of 36 league appearances was also the highest of his career.
As Barca undergo quite a major transition, the continued presence of such a senior figure — and a vital connection to former glories — will be most welcome.
One to watch: Pedri
After playing a whopping 73 games for club and country in 2020-21, Barcelona’s brightest young thing has finally been given a much-needed break to recharge his batteries.
Having broken out and being taken under Messi’s wing last season, La Masia academy product Pedri has the chance to take centre stage in 2021-22.
The 18-year-old midfielder already proved he can be a class act under pressure by starring for Spain during their run to the semi-finals of Euro 2020.
He then jetted off to Tokyo for the Olympics, where he helped La Rioja to the final, bringing home a silver medal as they lost to Brazil.
The boss: Ronald Koeman
Koeman was named Barca head coach in August last year, returning to the club where he spent most of his trophy-laden career.
The Dutchman left his national side to take over the Camp Nou, with his last club job coming at Everton.
He did previously enjoy a stint in LaLiga in charge of Valencia, where he won the 2007-08 Copa del Rey.
As a player, the 58-year-old won the European Cup with Barcelona and PSV, as well as Euro 88 with the Netherlands. He later captained the national team at the 1994 World Cup in the USA.
All information correct as of 10am, September 2, 2021