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The CL champions of 2008-09 are out to recover the title after being eliminated last year in the semi-finals by Inter. Presenting an ever-firmer squad, Barcelona are among the favourites to hoist aloft the 2010-2011 trophy.

STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES

Considered the best team in the world, Barcelona currently have so many strengths that some regard this Cule team as the best squad ever. Some of its strong points are the advanced pressure on the opponent team due to a great range of attacking options; the early and swift recovery of the ball; and the versatility on show when attacking. Pep Guardiola has achieved an automatic style of football that his team executes perfectly - a system based on possession, pressing and attacking. The main weakness this season is a relatively limited roster, which may cause problems in advanced stages of the competition, when injuries and fatigue appear. This is especially true in the centre of defence. 

STARS & KEY PLAYER

Barcelona is can field a team with at least 11 stars. It is not easy to favour a single player among the vast pantheon of outstanding players wearing the Blaugrana shirt. However, two members of the squad stand out: two artists of the ball, allegedly two of the best five players of the world, and two men that provide dreams for every head coach and nightmares for every opponent team: Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez.

The Argentine was elected by the readers of Goal.com as the best player of the season, one more acknowledgement of a sensational career in which ' La Pulga' has won each and every title, individual or with his club, that a player can dream of. His team-mate Xavi is quite simply the best play-maker in the world. The midfield wizard led Spain to the European and World Championship with sensational imagination, speed, control of the ball and vision of the game that makes him the perfect team player. Striker David Villa, centre-back Gerard Pique and midfield Andres Iniesta are other key players and again the envy of coaches worldwide.

COACH & TACTICS

It is not easy to figure out a given tactic for a team lead by a strategist such as Guardiola. The mobility of his players discards any basic idea on paper, as Barcelona play with one goal only: beat their opponents, regardless of systems or tactics. 4-3-3? Maybe. 4-3-2-1? Sometimes.  The reality is that Barcelona play total football, often attacking with at least 7 players, and making continuous relays and changes of position.  

Those who think that Guardiola is successful because of his players should think twice, as the Catalan head coach executes outstanding work, setting up the collective lines of playing of the squad. Those who minimize the labour of Guardiola should see closely continuous examples of the virtues of the former international midfielder, as in the historic 6-2 victory against Real Madrid. It doesn’t translate well to the written word, but this is tactical football at its most effective.

SUCCESSES

Barcelona are experiencing one of the most successful eras in the history of the sport. Their six titles achieved two seasons ago was record-breaking, completing for the first time ever a perfect run in the season, winning all possible competitions: Spanish League, Spanish Cup, European Supercup, World Club Championship and Champions League. This is a trophy haul that may never be matched.

STADIUM

Camp Nou is the field of the dreams for the Cules. Inaugurated in 1957, the 'New Field' has a capacity of 98,787, making it the biggest arena in the continent and tenth largest in the world, and the one with more capacity than all the UEFA Elite stadiums: a perfect setting for a team like the Blaugrana.

HERO OF THE FANS

Catalan-born captain Carles Puyol is one of the biggest heroes, as he represents most of the principles of the club. Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta are also fan favourites; likewise Lionel Messi, who may be Argentinean but was raised in the grassroots program of the Catalan club.

GOAL.COM PREDICTION

Barcelona is one of the main favourites for the title, maybe the main favourite for the title. This group stage shouldn’t trouble the Blaugrana too much. Anything less than the semi-finals would be a tragedy, and it should come as no surprise if one of the spots of the big final has the name of this Spanish team.



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