Camp Nou, Barcelona
September 17, 2011; 1900 GMT
It has been a somewhat negative week for FC Barcelona; the Catalans failed to beat both Real Sociedad and AC Milan, despite holding seemingly comfortable leads in both matches. As if that were not enough, the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Andrés Iniesta picked up injuries that will sideline them for quite a while. All teams go through difficult patches at some point or another and Barcelona have no reason to panic, but this weekend’s game will be a huge test to the team’s mettle and champions-mentality. Barcelona are forced to get a win in front of their home crowd, not only to put an end to this draw streak, but also to avoid losing further ground to Real Madrid. One must not forget that, after facing Osasuna, Barcelona will travel to Valencia for one of the most difficult matches of the league season. It is therefore imperative to get a win this weekend.
As for Osasuna, they’ve had a very good start to the league season, with a 0-0 draw at Atlético Madrid and a 2-1 home win over Sporting Gijon. Osasuna are traditionally a very tough team at their ground (where even Real Madrid lost last season) but a very poor side away from home, thus relying on their home form to avoid relegation. They will surely not expect much from their trip to Camp Nou to face the defending champions, but they will not just roll over. Osasuna will try to take advantage of Barcelona’s possible nerves and the absence of the mercurial Andrés Iniesta to cause an upset in Catalunya.
Team News and Tactical Brief
As mentioned earlier, this hasn’t been a great week for FC Barcelona. The two consecutive draws were definitely not in the club’s plans and they were obtained in a frustrating manner, with Barcelona dropping solid leads on both occasions. However, the worst news for the club is definitely the injuries to Alexis Sanchez and especially Andrés Iniesta; both will be unavailable to face Osasuna and sidelined for at least a month. Obviously, replacing a player of their caliber will be no easy task and it will require a collective team effort to make up for their absence. In a way, Iniesta’s injury also provides Cesc Fabregas with his first big test of his Barcelona career. Now is the time for the former Arsenal captain to step up and show why Barcelona spent so much time and money for him. This next month will start defining his Barcelona career.
The only good, actually great news of the week has been the return of captain Carles Puyol, after several months, battling with his fitness. Puyol’s return is sure to immediately improve Barcelona’s defense, which has been a bit shaky lately without Puyol and Piqué. The latter is also tipped to return soon, which is encouraging news for the club, even if he is not likely to make it in time for the Osasuna match.
For Barcelona, this match is like a final; the Catalan outfit simply can’t afford to drop any points right before an always difficult travel to Mestalla. Pep Guardiola should field his strongest eleven available in order to ensure a win. Barcelona will play in the same way that they always do: dominating possession and patiently trying to find gaps in Osasuna’s defense in order to create chances and score.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Valdés; Abidal, Puyol, Mascherano, Alves; Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas; Pedro, Villa, Messi.
After narrowly escaping relegation in the last day of the 2010-2011 season, Osasuna have started this year’s league very well, with four points in two matches, the same as that of Barcelona. The only bad news is that their main center back, Sergio Fernandez, is injured and will be out for three weeks. Their coach and players insist that Osasuna will travel to Camp Nou with no fear. They know that Barcelona are the defending champions and perhaps the world’s best team, but they also know that anything can happen in a football match, as Real Sociedad proved last week. Getting a result at Camp Nou is very, very difficult, but definitely not impossible.
Osasuna will defend deep and in numbers in an attempt to frustrate Barcelona and take advantage of mistakes to try and score in a counterattack. They know that they have nothing to lose in this game: a defeat is expected and won’t affect them much, while any positive result might prove crucial to ensure safety in the league in the long run. So far, Osasuna don’t seem affected by the loss of their best player, Camuñas, to Villarreal; however, they seem to have an overall better team than last term.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2): Fernandez; Bertarán, Roversio, Flaño, Raitala; Cejudo, Puñal, Lolo, Calleja; Garcia, Nino.
1. FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna have met 66 times in La Liga. Barca won 37 times, Osasuna won 15 and 14 matches ended in deadlock.
2. Osasuna are one of the seven teams to have beaten Barcelona under Pep Guardiola
Key Facts Courtesy: Yahoo! Sport
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Cesc Fabregas (FC Barcelona)
With Andrés Iniesta injured, this will be Cesc Fabregas’ chance to show that he has what it takes to succeed at Barcelona. The time for him to show his worth is now, starting with this match against Osasuna. Barcelona fans, and football fans in general, will be eager to see how the prodigal son responds to the challenge. It’s time for Cesc to step up. This next month will start shaping up his legacy as a Barcelona player.
FC Barcelona 3-0 CA Osasuna
Osasuna have started the league well, but they should be no match to a Barcelona side in desperate need for a convincing win. They might hold on to Barcelona for a while, but in the end Barcelona’s superior quality will shine through, with Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez on target.