It's time to address the elephant in the room going into the 2019/20 season. Catalan giants FC Barcelona had a dreadful conclusion to last season, with the highlight being the unforgettable UEFA Champions League semi-finals exit to eventual winners, Liverpool. Despite having their star player Lionel Messi, Barcelona were handed a brutal reality check as they blew a 3-0 lead, losing 3-4 at Anfield, costing the Blaugranas a chance to taste European success.
However, with the last season being put to bed, the new season dawns and Barcelona have brought in reinforcements, with their major signing being Antoine Griezmann, for now till the transfer deadline.
With Messi recovering from injury at the current moment, the defending La Liga champions were handed a 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao, with veteran Spanish striker Aritz Aduriz stunning all with his bicycle kick in the 89th minute, with his lone goal proving to be the winner for the hosts.
Striker Luis Suarez was injured before half-time and now Ousmane Dembele being ruled out till five weeks, Barcelona only have Griezmann to look up to along with Rafinha and Carles Alena.
With troubled player-maker Philippe Coutinho now joining Bayern Munich on-loan, the defending champions will have to make do with what they have and with the road from here only getting tougher, Real Madrid and Atletico have also stepped up, with the Los Blancos starring in their opening match, with the surprising part being that Zidane could not play any of his new signings due to injury.
An injury-filled bench does not look good for the Catalans but the worrisome part is age catching up with the 5-time Ballon d'Or winner. The Argentine has been a saviour for Barcelona many a time, and that is the sole reason which is disquieting and unsettling for the European giants. Who will step up to the plate when Messi isn't around? Which player has the assets that Messi has? Which other player has the ability to score goals, provide assists, create goal scoring chances and has the vision to attack?
There's no doubt that FC Barcelona are investing in a bright future from here on, with the likes of Frenkie de Jong, Dembele, Alena and many more shining, but which player can step up when Messi is not around?
The reigning champions have not won their last six games without Messi. Sure the first El Classico of last season was an exception when Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 5-1, with Suarez netting in a hat-trick and Coutinho, Vidal finding the net, but how will Barcelona go about their play, with new players around?
The Blaugrana's have not been the same with Messi not around and the results so far have been damning as the difference is between victory and defeat. The defeat to Liverpool in the UCL semis cost the La Liga champs a shot at the domestic double as Barcelona lost the Copa del Rey finals to Valencia.
With Suarez also catching up with age, his performance has deteriorated, which may now see Greizmann as the main striker in time to come. A position which is still yet to be filled - Left Winger.
While the negotiations go on with Paris Saint Germain, Neymar's return to Camp Nou seems highly unlikeable at the moment, with the French giants rejecting plenty of offers for the Brazilian. While talks still go on, Barcelona have to look at the bigger picture and focus on the players in hand.
Next up, Barcelona face Real Betis on August 26, with Messi expected to be fit but is unlikely to start for the Blaugranas but all eyes will be on 2018 World Cup winner Griezmann, who is expected to play up front in the coming months.