For most top clubs around the world, preseason is a bit of a pain, with lots of travelling and a lot of hard work to prepare for the upcoming season. The Barça squad, which will be unfamiliar due to the Copa América and European Championships, will have a training camp at the St George’s Park training complex in Burton-upon-Trent in England between the 25th and 30th of July, before playing their first preseason fixture in Dublin, Ireland against Celtic on the night of the 30th, then on to Stockholm, Sweden to play Premier League champions Leicester City on the 3rd of August and finally they come back to the United Kingdom to play Liverpool at Wembley in London, England.
Over the years, Barcelona have preferred to field very rotated sides in these friendlies, with lots of youngsters joining the trip to gain quality experience with the first team squad and coaches, and showing what they can do with the possibility of more first team action in their minds. But which youngsters could take the trip to England for the training camp?
Samper is now a name that most Barcelona fans will be familiar with. He has been with Barcelona’s B team for three seasons now and all reports point towards either a promotion to the first team or a loan to a La Liga side. Samper is a defensive-midfielder very much in the Sergio Busquets mould, with intelligent tackling ability, positioning, passing and dribbling, Samper has it all to succeed at the club.
This season Sergi has taken on the role of captain at the B team, as well as seeing an adaptation to the right-sided central-midfield role, in a Xavi kind of style, and this could give Luis Enrique an even bigger reason to give the 21-year-old a chance. The past few days have seen various reports of the Catalan-born player discussing terms of a new contract lasting until 2020.
Samper joined the first team squad as part of the 15/16 preseason in the USA, so it seems almost certain that he’ll join the squad this preseason too, and perhaps even for the foreseeable future.
19-year-old Rodri Tarín has enjoyed a relatively successful season at Barcelona B, especially during their winning streak in Segunda B. Tarín made the official step from Juvenil A to Barcelona B this season and showed his talent in defence with some solid performances, but also, especially important at this club, his technique on the ball.
Tarín is a right-footed centre-back who could supply some reinforcements in the back-up roles of the first team if he is promoted in the next few years and could even challenge for a more regular role if he continues to progress, but it’s pretty much certain that he will have another season with the B team to give him some more experience as a regular starter.
Tarín should definitely be joining the squad for preseason, as Enrique can take a look at some of the brighter talents from the B team and good centre-backs seem to be becoming more and more difficult to come by, now is the time to take a look and see what the canteranos can offer.
The Cameroonian attacking-midfielder joined Barcelona after being scouted by the Samuel Eto’o foundation, and is now on the brink of the first team. Kaptoum’s main trait is his dribbling ability, he has a tendency to go on mazing runs towards goal. After appearances in the Copa del Rey and one appearance in the Champions League, Kaptoum has a good chance of joining the preseason squad in June, but joining the first team permanently is practically impossible for the time being, as players like Halilović and Denis Suárez are on their way back.
José Suárez and Adrián Ortolá
Both being goalkeepers, it’s hard to see Ortolá and Suárez join the first team for the preseason, but as it looks like third choice goalkeeper Jordi Masip could be on his way out of the first team set-up, reports are pointing towards one of the two B ‘keeper taking his place.
Ortolá being the older of the two shot-stoppers, this could be make or break. His contract expires this June, so any possibility of a part in preseason would have to be resolved quickly, and although he has enjoyed the most minutes in the league this season out of the whole B squad, it seems that the club values Asturian José Suárez higher despite his long-term injury this season.
As you would expect, both players are relatively good on the ball and have pulled off some good performances this year, but age is on the side of Suárez at 20-years-old and it seems more likely that he will be third goalkeeper next season over 22-year-old Ortolá.
Carles Aleñá and Rafa Mujica
Coming from a talented Juvenil A side, Mujica and Aleñá have both been able to experience what it’s like to be a Barcelona B player over the last few months. They enjoyed a good amount of time with the squad as the season somewhat petered out after the winning streak, and they were brought up from the U19s as part of a ‘casting’ project from Gerard López and his staff.
Aleñá is player who can definitely go by the name of a todocampista, a player for every position. Aleñá is just 18-years-old, but shows the confidence and drive of a player with years of first team experience. He can play as an orchestrator, an attacking interior, on the wings, and even as a false nine, as well as being two footed. Aleña could be an outsider for the trip to England, and Luis Enrique is surely thinking about a future for the player as he joined the first team on their trip to Valencia in the Copa del Rey earlier in the season.
He also scored this wonder-goal earlier this season in the Uefa Youth League:
Rafa Mujica is a forward who joined the club in the summer from Las Palmas’ youth set-up, but couldn’t play any matches until January due to the Fifa ban. After playing a few matches for Juvenil A, the team he was originally signed for, he joined Gerard López’s side and impressed with one brilliant goal (below) and two assists in six games at the tender age of 17. It would be surprising to see Mujica join the squad for preseason, but it definitely shouldn’t be ruled out.
— David (@david4bcn) April 9, 2016
In the January transfer window Barcelona B had a big reshuffle, bringing in many new faces from various different clubs, and the majority haven’t set the world alight, but done a job in stabilising the side. Although most of these signings joined the club to stable the side, it’s clear that some of the players are genuine prospects for the future, whether that is playing in the first team or being sold on for a profit.
One player that could stand out to Lucho and his staff is Dani Romera. Romera is a striker who was brought in from Almería and has seen himself bag six goals and provide two assists in 12 games with the reserves. He has impressed, but Romera has just sustained an injury to his right-knee which should keep him out for five months, so we won’t see him in the team for this preseason, but perhaps he could be a player that Enrique decides to call upon in the future.
Another of the signings who could be called on is Borja López. Borja is a centre-back who has put in some decent performances since joining up with the B squad in January, and Luis Enrique has called on him to join in on some first team training sessions since the new year.
Two non-La Masia players who have been at the club for a few years now are midfielder Gerard Gumbau and forward/attacking-midfielder Juan Cámara. Both players have been called up by Luis Enrique for multiple training sessions this season as well as taking part in the UCL group stages, but they have failed to really perform this season and could be on their way out of the club.
Cámara is rumoured to have offers from other clubs as his contract is up this summer. Gumbau will probably stay in the B team, especially with Samper moving on, but he shouldn’t be seen as a future first team player by any means.
As the club seem to be looking for full backs on both sides of the pitch, it’s possible that right-backs Elohor Godswill and Sergi Palencia, both players who have been at La Masia for many years, could join in on next seasons preparations, and maybe even left-back Moises Delgado who joined the club in the January reshuffle. These three could be options next season, but the club will definitely be taking a look to see what’s on offer in the transfer market before thinking about the B team’s options.
The younger youngsters
Some players from Barcelona’s U19 team, Juvenil A, could spring a surprise and join the squad in England. The team have endured a tough season under manager Gabri, but it is a squad bursting with talent. Seung-ho Paik and Seung-woo Lee are players that the club has big expectations for, but there are also talents elsewhere in the side like Arnau Campeny, Marc Cucurella, Oriol Busquets, and Àlex Carbonell.
It seems unlikely that any Juvenil A players will get to join the trip to England, but there are some players that Luis Enrique could take into consideration if he choses to dive into the youth teams of the club and see what they have to offer.
So, the staff of Barcelona’s first team have a lot to think about. It has been somewhat of a tradition to bring a large amount of young players on these trips for preseason and this year should be no different. The preseason squad could be filled with youngsters with all the international football going on, so there will be a lot of new faces to get used to.
Preseason can seem like a chore for players and coaching staff alike, but it is also a great opportunity to experiment with new players and a massive chance for the youngsters to try to get their name in the notepads of the right people, and learn from the best players on the planet.
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