If their narrow win over Sevilla in the European Super Cup was a wake-up call that needed answering, then Barcelona’s recent 5-1 aggregate mauling at the hands of Athletic Bilbao is the rush of panic one feels on realising, well…you’ve overslept.

Only a few short months ago, the Blaugrana were the kings of Europe. Luxuriating in the halcyon delight of a climactic campaign that saw them clinch a terrific treble, the Spanish champions had successfully reached the peak at precisely the right time. Outlasting all the big continental guns as well as fending off the challenge of their most bitter of rivals in Real Madrid, they were the undisputed best team around.

Pivotal to their super success was, of course, the fearsome attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr. Affectionately labelled ‘MSN’, their exorbitant return of 122 goals across all competitions ensured Luis Enrique’s men quickly became an unstoppable force for almost any team they faced. What’s more, they managed to smash the Spanish goal-scoring record that had been previously held by Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain – and all after the enigmatic Suarez missed their opening eight league fixtures.

Neutrals everywhere could but enjoy the spell-binding football they cast through television screens and press boxes everywhere. They were an indulgence enjoyed by many.

Once more this season, their offensive trinity will be looked to as the team’s biggest strength, but many are claiming that they might just have to break their old record once again if they plan on getting anywhere near the monumental master-strokes they conjured throughout the 2014/15 campaign.

These are testing times for the club, but it would be beyond foolish to write them off so nonchalantly.

A lot is being made about Barca’s defensive woes right now, and although it is certainly not their biggest strength by any means, it can be rectified to a certain extent. After all, this is the same La Liga rearguard that recorded 23 clean sheets, shipped just 18 goals and saw goalkeeper extraordinaire Claudio Bravo win the much sought-after Zamora Trophy ahead of Iker Casillas, Diego Alves and Sergio Asenjo.

Often playing with pride and the utmost concentration, there has been something crucial missing from their general play of late, and although they were made to look silly and reckless at the back in the build-up to the new season, it’s easy to see why they’ll migrate away from those errors the more fluidity they regain.

After all, they certainly have the same hardware to go again and become a defensive force as well as an attacking one. That will take time.

However, while the nuts, bolts and blueprints are being rearranged to resolve what ails them, Barca will be forced to rely largely on their goal-scorers to bulldoze their way through games. Of course, they also have the spirit of their possession-based approach to work with, too.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this Catalan outfit have been in pre-season mode precisely when it’s OK to do so. Because while no fan ever likes to see their team lose, their recent results have been a little distorted to suit a few negative narratives emanating from different sections of the media of late. The two biggest matches they played during August may well have had all the appeal and feel of a couple of defining matches, but the truth remains that they are glorified pre-season clashes; pseudo-competitive, if you will.

That should take nothing away from either Sevilla or Athletic Bilbao, who showed themselves to be top-quality sides once again. However, it’s no coincidence that they failed to beat either team in the league last season on just one occasion – when they drew 2-2 with Unai Emery’s men, away from home in the Primera Division.

In short, there is little reason for supporters to panic about their current dilemma.

To put it more plainly, these players have the experience, expertise and energy to push hard for La Liga’s coveted trophy once more.

Don’t be surprised if they awaken from their slumber to turn things around with a hatful of exquisite goals while they’re at it.

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