Barcelona have sounded a warning to their La Liga rivals by suggesting that the 7-0 drubbing of Levante on the opening weekend of the new season was just a taster of what they can expect to be competing against this year.
New coach, Gerardo Martino, has overseen some fairly serious action in the transfer market during his short time at the helm, the most eye-catching being the capture of mercurial Brazilian, Neymar, for the princely sum of £48.7m.
Much will be expected of him over the coming months but only time will tell if he can replicate his fabulous form at Santos on the biggest stage of them all.
Having finished a massive 15 points ahead of runners-up and main rivals, Real Madrid, last season, Barcelona opened the defence of their title with a typically devastating display, and Neymar completed the celebrations by making his debut as a substitute, a move that indicates that he has now fully recovered from the knock he picked up in pre-season.
The Catalan giants were praised after the match for their pressing and high-tempo play, both with and without the ball – but, whilst this provides rich pickings for attacking players, the argument will inevitably be raised over whether this approach will again leave them vulnerable in defence.
Sterner challenges lie in wait – the firepower of Real, Atletico, and Valencia will provide a far tougher test than that posed by Levante – which means that, somewhat conversely, their title hopes may eventually depend on Victor Valdes.
In his swansong season at the Nou Camp and, likely, at the World Cup, in which Spain are the reigning champs, Valdes will be desperate to repeat last year’s campaign when he conceded an average of just 1.06 goals per game.