Estadio Reyno de Navarra, Pamplona
December 5, 2010, 12:30 AM IST
Defending champions, FC Barcelona, travel west to face Osasuna. After a delightful victory, at the Camp Nou against arch-rivals Real Madrid, Pep Guardiola’s men are all set to face yet another test at the Estadio Reyno de Navarra. José Antonio Camacho’s side is one of the four sides to remain unbeaten at home. Without an iota of doubt, Guardiola’s men have a tough assignment awaiting them.
FC Barcelona enters the 14th round of La Liga as the league leaders – for the first time this season. After a sporadic start to their season, Guardiola’s men are finally settling well. Osasuna too had a tumultuous start to their season when they went winless for the first three matches. The Pamplona side notched up their first victory at home against Real Sociedad.
News of Pep Guardiola, who is out of contract in June, being linked to other clubs might just have stirred the fans the wrong way. Nonetheless, the Barcelona administrators are reported to have taken initiative to tie down their former midfielder at the Camp Nou for a much longer duration.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Without an iota of doubt, the Catalan side enters this match as favorites. After a classical display of total football on Monday, FC Barcelona yet again find themselves at the top of the Spanish charts. Guardiola believes that the imminent match against Osasuna is the right match to test his team.
“Osasuna will put us in our place; we are happy with the 5-0 win, but that’s it. They have shown that from the first minute you have to do everything really well and keep taking the points if you want to win the league,”
– said the former Barca midfielder. He also confirmed that Messi is fit to play in Pamplona despite the knock he picked up and he was also upbeat about Xavi’s recovery from his Achilles tendon problem.
The Catalan will be looking to pick up from where they left on Monday. An attacking trident, featuring Messi flanked by Pedro and Villa on either side can be expected which would be duly supported by Xavi and Iniesta. Pep Guardiola might just turn his attention to Argentine Captain Javier Mascherano for this crucial away tie. In defense, Dani Alves and Eric Abidal are expected to carry out their respective duties, while Piqué and Puyol would be manning the Barcelona fortress at its heart. Despite the fact that Gaby Milito is back in training, the Argentine centre-half isn’t included in the 19-man squad that travel to Pamplona on Saturday morning. The only B team member to get a place in the senior squad is Thiago.
Probable Starting Line-up: Valdés(GK), Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Abidal, Xavi, Mascherano, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Villa.
Camacho’s men come into this match after an unfortunate away loss at the hands of Athletic Bilbao, in a keenly-fought Basque derby. However, even if they have been poor on the road, the Los Rojillos, at present are enjoying particularly strong run of form at home. The hosts have scored seven times at home without conceding en route to three consecutive victories. As far as away form is concerned, it is as abject as it can get. They have picked up just 1 point away from home, that too against a beleaguered Deportivo. Nevertheless, the home side’s Spanish midfielder Fernando Soriano has already fired warning to FC Barcelona.
“We will try to surprise them. We have to be strong and fight for everything. It must be a physical game, and we will make it very hard,”
-said the Spaniard.
Iranian midfielder, Masoud Shojaei has been in decent form for the home side. Despite his splendid performance against Bilbao, Camacho’s men couldn’t salvage anything. There is still some doubt about the Iranian’s availability for the week-end match. However if the attacking midfielder starts, he can very well be the tormentor-in-chief for the FC Barcelona defense. Shojaei’s compatriot and midfield partner – Javad Nekounam, too has shown admirable performance for the Pamplona outfit. Known for his defensive abilities, passing, ball distribution and long range shooting, the former Al Sharjah midfielder is expected to break FC Barcelona’s attack and create opportunities for the hosts on the counter. The good news for the hosts is that veteran Uruguayan striker, Walter Pandiani, will be available for Saturday’s clash against FC Barcelona.
Probable Starting Line-up: Ricardo(GK), Sergio, Damia, Miguel Flano, Eraso Nacho, Soriano, Juanfran, Shojaei, Nekounam, Camunas, Pandiani
1. FC Barcelona hasn’t dropped any point away from home in the 2010-11 season.
2. CA Osasuna is yet to lose at home. Their unbeaten run at home comprises of 4 wins and 2 draws.
3, José Antonio Camacho, the Osasuna manager, has played over 400 matches for Real Madrid.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
David Villa (FC Barcelona)
As long as Lionel Messi features in the FC Barcelona line-up, it is very difficult to watch out for any other player. However after a scintillating performance against Real Madrid, David Villa will be eager to justify his price tag.against Osasuna as well. With 1 assist and 2 fabulous goals against one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Villa will be in the perfect frame of mind to take on Camacho’s men. Whilst Messi hogs the bulk of limelight, the former Valencia striker does his job of scoring goals with panache.
CA Osasuna 0-3 FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona enter game 14 as clear-cut favourites. Guardiola also has his entire squad available. With Messi, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta in such imperious form and keeping in mind the visitor’s fabulous away form this season, anything but a victory would mean loss of points for the defending champions.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST: