Two out of four potential trophies made their way home to Catalonia last season. That did not stop a wave of disappointment and criticism from engulfing FC Barcelona this summer.
The reality is that winning only two out of four trophies last season is a letdown for a club that has won 74 domestic and 20 international trophies in its storied history. Despite winning La Liga and the Supercopa de España, the team still entered the offseason with a bitter taste in its mouth.
Barcelona blew a 3-0 aggregate lead to Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal — allowing four goals in the second leg at Anfield— and lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa Del Rey final. Both trophies were seemingly in their grasp but slipped away.
This summer, the Spanish side made two big splashes on the transfer market, acquiring a pair of superstars in French forward Antione Griezmann and Dutch midfielder Frenkie De Jong. Now, more than ever, Barcelona fans expect results.
“It’s the last game of the pre-league and we’re going to have to show what we’re doing this year and hopefully show how things will end up in the league,” Valverde said through a translator.
“We’re not going to deceive ourselves; the manager of Barcelona is always the one who is asked these questions and people always have to think about when we lose more than when we win. So, we have to be ready to answer those questions. And I’m always the person who needs to be open to speaking about our defeats. We are in the situation where we have to win as many games as possible, and if there are criticisms now for a certain game or something that happened in the past, those are going to be criticisms, but my job is to make sure that we’re winning going forward.”
In Saturday’s match, the two new additions started and received ample playing time. Griezmann netted his first goal for Barcelona in the second half after missing a quality opportunity to score from inside the six-yard box in the early minutes of the game. De Jong dominated the midfield — facilitating play in the middle of the pitch and rarely making a mistake.
The club fared well, even without forward Lionel Messi, winning easily against last season’s Serie A runner-up. And both De Jong and Griezmann figure to be featured regularly in the starting 11.
Though Saturday’s exhibition match was exactly that — an exhibition — it marked the last tune up for the Spanish champions and the final chance for the newcomers to integrate into the lineup before league play begins.