The idea that pre-season games are just to warm up for what lies ahead, to get in shape and not draw any conclusions from has become the past. It's obsolete, expired. Because they are becoming true exams for some parts of the squad to show they have what it takes to be an essential piece of the team this season. There are some players who can breathe more calmly than others, of course. Those who know they are guaranteed to be in the starting XI and as a result they can take these weeks more calmly than others without pushing it.
EXAMINED FROM THE START
Others are not in such a fortuitous position and they have to prove to the fans and coach that they have what it takes. Against Chelsea tomorow will be a fine opportunity to take that step forward. Ousmane Dembele is in this group.
The Frenchman had a mixed second season, in part brilliant but also involved in unacceptable off-the-field situations. With Antoine Griezmann's arrival, Dembele knows he must fight harder than ever to play. His good attitude was shown when he arrived early to get training, along with Jean-Clair Todibo.
JC's case is different to Ousmane's. After a season off the grid - only 10 games for Toulouse and two for Barca - he wants to get back into match shape as quickly as possible. The French Guayana defender is hoping to be a real part of the squad this season and get games, and with De Ligt's no, that seems more likely.
ALENA AND UMTITI, A KEY YEAR
Samuel Umtiti had a very strange sesason. His knee injury saw Clement Lenglet take his place in the team. When Umtiti came back he was not capable of convincing Valverde and was not able to claim his spot again.
And Alena has seen Frenkie De Jong arrive which is another threat to his game time in midfield. It's time for him to take off the crown of 'young promise' and start consolidating himself as a first team player. The competition will be more ferocious than ever.