Estadio Reyno de Navarra, Pamplona
August 26, 2012, 19:00 GMT
After a thumping 5-1 win over Real Sociedad to begin their 2012/2013 La Liga campaign, Barcelona will face an always difficult travel to the Reyno de Navarra in week 2 of La Liga, a place where Spain’s big 2 traditionally struggle and often drop points. Last year, the trip to Pamplona was the beginning of the end of Barcelona’s title quest, as a 3-2 defeat left them eight points behind Real Madrid. Tito Vilanova will surely be aware of the challenge this match presents and will field his best available lineup, even with the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the Santiago Bernabeu looming.
Osasuna, on the other hand, have not started the league well, with a 2-0 defeat at the Riazor, but they have securing their place in La Liga for years based on their strong home performances despite usually poor away results, so not much should be read into that result. Even with Barcelona coming into town, Osasuna will fancy their chances to get a result, as they always do on their home turf.
Team News and Tactical Brief
José Luis Mendilibar’s outfit didn’t start the season well, and a match against Barcelona isn’t exactly the ideal way to get back on track even if they did beat the Catalans 3-2 last season. The players and the manager have been unanimous in admitting that getting a result against Barcelona will be a very hard task, but possible if they play well, feed off the crowd’s energy and take advantage of Barcelona’s mistakes.
Unlike most teams, who adopt the now infamous ‘park the bus’ tactic against Barcelona, you can fully expect Osasuna to come out full of energy pressing Barcelona all over the pitch and to keep that pressure up for the entire match. When playing at home, the Pamplona outfit always apply tremendous pressure on their opponents, even if it is Barcelona or Real Madrid, which is a big part of the reason why they have been so successful against the big 2 (at least compared to other clubs). They will once again be looking to make life as tough as possible for the Blaugrana.
Nano and Armenteros are the only two notable absentees for this match, with both battling injuries. Despite last week’s defeat against Depor, Mendilibar should field a very similar starting XI to the one he did at the Riazor, again employing a 4-2-3-1 formation with Joseba Llorente as the one striker and Nino right behind him.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Fernandez; Bertrán, Flaño, Arribas, Damiá; Raoul Loe, Puñal; Sisi, Nino, Cejudo; Llorente
Tito Vilanova’s first away match as Barcelona’s manager could hardly be more challenging, with a trip to the Reyno de Navarra. The fact that it comes merely days after El Clásico for the Spanish Super Cup only makes things even more delicate, as there are bound to be physical and mental fatigue issues after such a match, not to mention the second leg will be played days after. It will be interesting to see how Tito manages his squad in this very demanding stretch of matches so early in the season.
Despite his inexplicable blunder against Real Madrid, Valdés will retain his spot in the lineup and will be looking for redemption. In defense, Jordi Alba should return to the lineup after being replaced by Adriano in midweek, as should Puyol, taking either Piqué’s or Mascherano’s place in the team. Daniel Alves is likely to start on the right as always. In midfield, the only probable change can be Xavi getting some rest and Fabregas taking his spot in the lineup. There’s also a chance that Alex Song might make his debut, but that may be saved for a less difficult match; Busquets will probably start on Sunday. Up front, the question is, as always, who will form the trident with Messi, with two of Tello, Pedro and Sanchez likely to get the nod.
Whatever the lineup might be, you can fully expect Barcelona to remain faithful to the principles that have brought them so much success, looking to control possession and applying pressure from the very first minute. The team will be fully aware of the dangers of this trip and start the match at full intensity, looking to score as early as possible.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Victor Valdés; Daniel Alves, Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Andrés Iniesta; Alexis Sanchez, Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi
Key Match Facts
- Osasuna beat Barcelona 3-2 at home last season
- Osasuna have taken points off Barcelona or Real Madrid (or both) in each of the past five seasons
- Barcelona had their biggest win of last season at home against Osasuna, 8-0
Player To Watch Out For
Victor Valdés (FC Barcelona)
After the inexplicable blunder he made against Real Madrid in midweek, the pressure will be on Valdés to deliver a great performance this Sunday in Pamplona, and all eyes will be on him. Valdés himself will be looking for redemption after putting his team in such a difficult situation.
CA Osasuna 2-2 FC Barcelona
Once again, Barcelona will fall at the Reyno de Navarra, dropping the first points of the season. In a very fast paced and entertaining game, Osasuna will eek out a draw in the second half after Barcelona take the lead in the first half.