Lionel Messi, Barcelona ready to repeat treble-winning season

When Neymar swept the ball past Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon into the goal to apply the finishing touches to a historic 2014/15 campaign, tongues immediately started wagging as to how the Blaugrana will approach the upcoming season.

There is a transfer embargo in place subjected upon the club to start with, which prevents them from doing business to bring players into the club, not the other way round. As with Chelsea in the Premier League at the moment, things can stagnate quickly if not properly addressed.

This ban makes a difficult task to retain all of last season’s trophies even harder, and almost impossible on paper at least. But a treble winning team doesn’t become ordinary overnight, and their statistically solid start to the new season (two wins, two clean sheets) have designs of the previous campaign.

Last season too, Barcelona started off with discipline with eight clean sheets in their first eight games before turning into a train at the turn of the year. Things taking a similar turn will leave most Barca fans barely complaining, but there is a sense the champions might be even stronger this year.

The departure of Pedro, although hard to take, clearly points to the attacking brilliance of the trio of Leo Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez which borders on the superlative. His transfer barely alters the first team dynamics, although it makes the team weaker from the bench.

Suarez had his first season in Barca colours last term, and going by his record at previous clubs, the Uruguayan truly comes to life in his second seasons. And his record last season reads: 25 goals, 24 assists, which means a better and more productive version of the striker is in store this season. A fearsome prospect for their rivals.

Again, Barcelona fans would complain less as with Pedro gone, they could see more of the La Masia starlets in the first half of the season. The likes of Sergi Roberto, Sandro, Munir and Rafinha would be more than adequate replacements for the Spain international, before the advent of 2016, which bears great significance for Luis Enrique’s side.

The new year will bring with it the exciting prospect of fresh players arriving at the club, as Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are currently ineligible to play owing to the ban. Both Turan and Vidal come with pedigrees to match that of the current crop at the club; Turan won the league with Atletico Madrid two years ago while Vidal won the Europa League with Sevilla last season.

The aforementioned duo coupled with the host of mooted new arrivals in January means Barca will have a fresher group than at most of their rivals domestically and in Europe at a time when squads are stretched and ravaged for the business end of the season.

In a way, the transfer ban helps Barcelona more than it dents their aspirations. In what is an unusual situation for the club, the Catalans could be in line to become the first club to win back-to-back Champions Leagues, and should they manage to do so, it will all turn out to be of their own making.

With the superior talents at their disposal, Barcelona will be expected to lumber through until January, and then, like last season, they could motor their way to unprecedented success. A fairly long bet, but one which cannot be ruled out given the club have been involved in plenty firsts in the last decade.

By Abhijit Bharali, columnist at Barcablog. Follow him on Twitter here.