|Players of Barcelona line up ahead of the 48th Joan Gamper Trophy football match between FC Barcelona and Santos FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain on Aug. 2, 2013. (Xinhua File Photo)
MADRID, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- With less than a week until the start of the new season in the BBVA Primera Liga, FC Barcelona have played their last game of a difficult pre-season which has done little to convince the doubters that the club has successfully dealt with the problems which were apparent in the closing stages of the last campaign.
While it is true that Barca won the Primera Liga in convincing style, finishing 15 points ahead of Real Madrid and winning an incredible 32 out of 38 games, it is also the case that in the closing weeks of the season, several structural weaknesses became apparent.
The injury to veteran defender Carles Puyol showed the need to sign another central defender as Puyol's absence left the club with just Gerard Pique as an experienced specialist center-half.
Javier Mascherano provides valuable cover, without ever convincing that he is more than a re-converted defensive midfielder, who struggles in the air, while Marc Bartra lacks experience and was at times left out behind Adriano Correia, who while fast stands at just 1.72 meters which also poses obvious problems when it comes to defending set pieces.
The midfield also seemed to end the season 'running on empty' as Xavi Hernandez struggled with a hamstring injury, Sergio Busquets with pelvic problems and Cesc Fabrigas with a series of physical problems due to the weight of games. Even star striker, Leo Messi felt the pace as he too suffered muscle problems.
This was all thrown into the spotlight by the 4-2 aggregate defeat against Real Madrid in the semifinal of the Copa del Rey and above all by the 4-0 and 3-0 beatings handed out by a rampant Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
The club also suffered the emotional trauma of coach Tito Vilanova's ongoing cancer treatment which left the first team under the guidance of the inexperienced Jordi Roura for key moments of the campaign.
The summer was meant to resolve these problems and got off to a positive start with the confirmation of the signing of Neymar, the star of the Brazilian national team and the next media bombshell
However, things then went badly wrong: first of all with the announcement in mid-July that Vilanova was stepping down as coach after the re-appearance of his illness, barely a week after starting pre-season training.
Apart from the obvious blow to the players' moral, it meant a search for a replacement and the club moved quickly to sign former Newell's Old Boys and Paraguay boss, Gerardo 'Tata' Martino, a man who they believe will continue with the trademark Barca style.
Nevertheless, Vilanova's departure meant that part of pre-season was under Roura's guidance and that the new man has not had the advantage of working the whole summer with his new charges.