Barcelona will be hoping to continue building a winning momentum when they lock horns with Osasuna at El Sadar on Saturday.
Matchday 3 of the 2019-20 La Liga season is underway, with early league leaders Sevilla kicking things off once again. Defending champions Barcelona will hope to enter the international break on a high, as they take on newly-promoted Osasuna at El Sadar Stadium on Saturday evening.
Osasuna have begun their first season back in La Liga since 2017 on a strong note, having not been beaten in the two games so far. While Los Rojillos started off with a win at Leganes in their season opening fixture, Jagoba Arrasate’s men were held to a goalless draw at home by Eibar last time around and sit a place ahead of their visitors on Saturday.
As for Barcelona, the reigning La Liga champions did not get off to the best of starts this term, with Athletic Bilbao handing them a shock 1-0 defeat. But, Ernesto Valverde & co. quickly turned their form around, beating Real Betis 5-2 last weekend. And while the Neymar links continue to crop up constantly, the Blaugrana must retain their focus on the here and now on the pitch.
Barcelona steamrolled Osasuna to grab a crushing 7-1 win the last time these two sides faced off against each other, while the most recent clash at El Sadar saw the Catalans cruise to a 3-0 success. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Jagoba Arrasate does not have any fresh injury concerns to deal with ahead of the visit of Barcelona. On Saturday, the Osasuna boss will be without as many as four first-team players, with Unai Garcia and Kike Barja out with their respective long-term knee injuries.
Meanwhile, Luis Perea (knock) and Inigo Perez (toe) have failed to shrug off their minor fitness troubles and will not feature for the hosts against Barcelona. But, none of the absentees pose a huge trouble as far as the short-term fortunes of the team is concerned, with Arrasate seemingly certain of his best eleven.
The Osasuna manager prefers to line his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and after briefly flirting with the idea of fielding his team in a 4-4-2, he should revert to his favoured system when Barcelona come visiting. As a result, Marc Cardona, signed from Barcelona this summer, could drop out of the side on Saturday.
Chimy Avila should lead the line for Osasuna, with Darko Brasanac playing off him in the no. 10 role. Brasanac is likely to be flanked by Roberto Torres and Robert Ibanez, with the wide duo being responsible for providing the creative impetus.
The midfield double pivot should feature Osasuna captain Oier, who alongside Jon Moncayola, will be hoping to nip the Barcelona attacks in their buds before recycling the ball for those in front of them.
The back four pretty much picks itself up, with Nacho Vidal and Pervis Estupinan the only full-backs in the matchday squad picked by Arrasate. At the heart of the Osasuna defence, David Garcia and Aridane Hernandez will have the unenviable task of containing Antoine Griezmann. Sergio Herrera should take his place in goal for the hosts.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Herrera; Nacho Vidal, Hernandez, David Garcia, Estupinan; Oier, Moncayola; Torres, Brasanac, Ibanez; Avila
The injuries just keep on piling for Barcelona, with five first-team players missing the trip to face Osasuna on Saturday. Junior Firpo is the latest player to be sidelined for the La Liga champions, after picking up a minor knee injury in training this week.
Apart from Firpo, Barcelona captain Lionel Messi (calf), Luis Suarez (calf), Ousmane Dembele (hamstring) and Neto (shoulder) all remain unavailable. The absence of Messi, Suarez and Dembele might not have been felt last weekend, but Ernesto Valverde remains down to his bare bones, as far as attack is concerned.
As a result, the trio of Carles Perez, Antoine Griezmann and Rafinha will continue in the final third for Barcelona. While a lot of the responsibility will be riding on the shoulders of Griezmann, Valverde will hope Perez and Rafinha can continue to contribute in a confident manner, as they have so far. Ansu Fati will be the backup option at the manager’s disposal.
As far as midfield is concerned, it has become evident that Ivan Rakitic will be phased out this term, and the Croat is unlikely to start against Osasuna. With Sergi Roberto impressing in his new role last time out, it is likely that he will once again be one of the two creative outlets alongside Frenkie de Jong, who was named the UEFA Midfielder of the Year this week.
Sergio Busquets will hold the fort for Barcelona in front of defence, although the cultured midfielder will hope to iron out the errors from his game. At the back, the defensive line picks itself, with Clement Lenglet well and truly the first-choice ahead of Samuel Umtiti.
Lenglet should have Gerard Pique, Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba for company in the back four, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen manning the Barcelona goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Roberto, Busquets, de Jong; Perez, Griezmann, Rafinha
- Osasuna have only won one of their last 12 La Liga games against Barcelona (D2 L9), a 3-2 success at El Sadar in February 2012, scoring 0.6 goals per game and conceded 3.5 goals per game.
- Osasuna are unbeaten in their last five La Liga home games (W2 D3) after failing to win any of their previous 15 (D5 L10).
- Barcelona are winless in their last three La Liga games on the road (D1 L2). The last time they failed to win in four or more consecutive league matches away from home was in May 2008 (six).
- Osasuna manager Jagoba Arrasate is unbeaten in his two La Liga games against Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde (W1 D1).
- Ernesto Valverde is unbeaten in his nine away games against Osasuna in all competitions (W7 D2).
Player to Watch
Last week, Barcelona proved that there is some spark in the team without Lionel Messi. While all of the spotlight duly shone on Antoine Griezmann, one player would have left onlookers impressed with his own display.
Carles Perez, starting for the first time for Barcelona, left an indelible mark following a confident performance. The 21-year-old was not afraid to take the defender on while his left foot already seems to be a lethal weapon that the Spaniard will hope to use to good effect against Osasuna.
With Ousmane Dembele out for the foreseeable future, these are opportunities that Carles Perez needs to get on top of. Thus far, he is doing just that but a defensively resolute Osasuna side will be his biggest test yet in a Barcelona career that is still in its nascent stage.
Osasuna 0-2 Barcelona
After blasting past Real Betis thanks to a blistering second half showing, Barcelona have proved that there is life without Messi for them. But, in Osasuna, they will revisit the ghosts of Matchday 1, wherein Athletic Bilbao had proven to be a tough nut to crack for them.
Osasuna are one of four sides that are yet to concede a goal so far and the fact that they shut off all the half spaces means that Barcelona will need to be clinical on Saturday. Expect a tightly contested affair that should see the visitors plug some of their defensive holes against a goal shy Osasuna side.
In the end, the reigning La Liga champions should do enough to grab their second win of the season and condemn Osasuna to their first defeat since returning to the Spanish top-flight. The Hard Tackle predicts a hard-fought 2-0 win for Barcelona.