Barcelona will play hosts to 11th-placed CA Osasuna at Camp Nou in their penultimate match of the 2019/20 La Liga on Thursday night.

Barcelona’s hopes of retaining the La Liga title are dead in the water. Following Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Granada, the Catalans are four points behind them with two games left. The title is well out of their hands now. The only scenario in which they can hold on to the crown now is, Los Blancos lose both their remaining matches or lose and draw one each, and Barcelona win their two.

Irrespective of what goes down at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Thursday when Real Madrid face Villarreal, Barcelona will be aiming for a win when they welcome Osasuna to Camp Nou, as they look to round off their league campaign on a strong note and build momentum for the Champions League.

Quique Setien’s men have been far from convincing since the resumption of the season last month. While they haven’t lost any of their nine games in this period, a run of draws dented their title bid. They head into the game on the back of an 1-0 win over Real Valladolid.

Osasuna are currently 11th in the La Liga table, having defeated Celta Vigo 2-1 last time out. Safe from relegation and not in contention for the UEFA Europa League spots, Jagoba Arrasate’s side will be keen on ending their first season back in the top-flight strongly and secure a top-half finish.

The reverse fixture, played in August last year, ended in a 2-2 draw, with Arthur Melo and Ansu Fati finding the back of the net for Barcelona, while Roberto Torres bagged a brace for Osasuna. Ahead of their latest meeting this midweek, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Barcelona

Antoine Griezmann is unavailable for selection for Barcelona (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Antoine Griezmann is unavailable for selection for Barcelona (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Barcelona manager Quique Setien has been boosted by the return of midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who had missed the last few matches with an injury. However, the hosts will once again be without the services of Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti, while Antoine Griezmann also misses out after picking up an injury in the last match.

The manager used a three-man defensive system last time out, but is expected to revert to a traditional four-man backline in front of the excellent Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba should line up as the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively, while Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet start as the centre-backs.

Sergio Busquets is a certainty to feature as the deepest of the central midfielders and he is likely to be arched by the duo of Arturo Vidal, who scored the only goal against Valladolid, and Sergi Roberto, who has impressed in the centre of the park in recent matches.

Academy graduate Riqui Puig, who has impressed heavily when given a chance, should start as the sole attacking midfielder. Upfront, club captain and talisman Lionel Messi ought to start, partnering Luis Suarez, with Martin Braithwaite and Ansu Fati providing attacking options from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Roberto, Busquets, Vidal; Puig; Messi, Suarez

Osasuna

Osasuna boss Jagoba Arrasate has no fresh injury concerns heading into their penultimate game of the campaign. He has named the same 23-man squad for the trip to Barcelona that was selected for the last game against Celta Vigo. Chimy Avila, Marc Cardona, Unai Garcia, Ruben Garcia and Robert Ibanez are the players ruled out with injuries.

The visitors are expected to line up in a 4-4-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Sergio Herrera on Thursday. The centre-back partnership of David Garcia and Aridane Hernandez is expected to remain intact, although Raul Navas is an option. Facundo Roncaglia and Pervis Estupinan started as the full-backs last time out, but could make way for Nacho Vidal and Toni Lato.

Club captain Oier should operate alongside Darko Brasanac in the midfield double pivot for Osasuna and look to stifle Barcelona’s creativity. Roberto Torres, who scored a brace in the reverse fixture, should get the nod on the right flank. Former Barcelona man Jose Arnaiz, who scored the winning goal against Celta after coming on as a sub, should get a start on the left.

The two-pronged strike force should comprise of Enric Gallego and Adrian Lopez, who are the only two fit centre-forwards available at the manager’s disposal.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Herrera; Vidal, Hernandez, Garcia, Lato; Torres, Oier, Brasanac, Arnaiz; Gallego, Lopez

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have won their last six La Liga meetings at home against Osasuna, scoring 31 goals in total, while keeping four clean sheets.
  • Osasuna have won just one of their last 13 La Liga games against Barcelona (D3 L9). That victory came back in February 2012.
  • Barcelona have won eight of their last nine La Liga matches at Camp Nou (D1), managing a shut-out in five of the last six encounters.
  • Osasuna have won two of the last three away La Liga matches (L1), as many as in their previous 14 contests on the road in the Spanish top-flight (W2 D6 L6).
  • Barcelona have collected 79 points in La Liga this season. This is their lowest tally at this stage of the campaign since 2007/08 (64). The finished third that season.

Player to Watch

Riqui Puig

The future of Barcelona (Photo by Lluis Gene/AFP via Getty Images)

The future of Barcelona (Photo by Lluis Gene/AFP via Getty Images)

In a midfield that has often lacked the creative essence, Riqui Puig’s performances of late have filled the Barcelona fans with great hope. The youngster has made a huge impression almost every time he has taken the field since the resumption of the campaign.

Able to make driving runs forward from the middle while possessing a keen eye for a pass, the 20-year-old has shown great potential in his fledgling career. With Lionel Messi carrying the creative burden all by himself for the Catalans, Puig can provide his captain with some respite and a strong finish to the league campaign will only hold him in good stead for the future.

Prediction

Barcelona 2-0 Osasuna

Barcelona have won their last three matches, albeit unconvincingly, and will be looking to extend that run while hoping that Real Madrid lose when they take on Villarreal. Osasuna, on the other hand, will be aiming to break into the top half of the table and will draw confidence from the fact that they held the Catalans to a draw in the reverse fixture.

However, the Catalans have hardly given anything away while playing at home, while Osasuna’s record at Camp Nou is nothing to write home about. And hence, The Hard Tackle is predicting Quique Setien & co. to ease to a straightforward 2-0 win on Thursday.

Leave A Comment...

*