FC Barcelona and manager Ernesto Valverde enjoyed a positive output last season, capturing a league and cup double thanks to sharp tactics and overwhelming quality in the attack. However, there was something missing in that success, and it has truly become a priority for the Blaugrana in the current term.
Last season’s shocking Champions League exit against AS Roma left a significant impression on the overall psyche of the club, a rare capitulation on the European stage that Barcelona are more accustomed to being at the other side of. In 2016-17, a marvellous comeback in the Round of 16 brought elimination for Paris Saint-Germain. A year later, it was the Catalans feeling the deep sting of defeat in the quarter-finals.
Captain Lionel Messi laid out his squad’s plans for the coming year, urging the Camp Nou crowd in August to understand where their focus is for 2018-19.
Messi said: “Last season was really good as we did the double but we all felt bad about how it went in the Champions League. We promise that this season we will do all we can to bring that beautiful trophy back to the Camp Nou.”
It is an understandable point of view, especially when considering Real Madrid’s tight grip on the competition in recent years. Watching their El Clásico rival lift the trophy season after season cannot be easy, and Barcelona want to get themselves back to Champions League glory.
It is in that sense where one can see why their recent loss at Leganés and draw against Athletic Club will not stick with the team for very long. Real Madrid’s own loss to Sevilla certainly helped, but Valverde knows that they are still in a good position during the league’s opening stages. The true objective will be repeating performances like their 4-0 thrashing of PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League group stage, and finding ways to ensure that those scorelines appear in the knockout rounds of the tournament also.
Barcelona may have stumbled in recent matches, but Ernesto Valverde has his side focused on more than just LaLiga’s title this season.
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