Barcelona will be hoping to close the gap to the top of the table when they take on Osasuna on Matchday 26 of the 2020/21 La Liga this weekend.
After a difficult start to life under Ronald Koeman, things are finally starting to look up for Barcelona, at least on the field. The Catalans have gone on a 15-game unbeaten run in La Liga, most recently beating Sevilla 2-0, which has taken them to within five points of leaders Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona will be hoping to cut down the gap to two when they face Osasuna at El Sadar on Saturday, with the Rojiblancos set for a difficult assignment against reigning champions Real Madrid. Koeman’s side will be brimming with confidence after mounting a brilliant comeback against Sevilla to make it to the finals of the Copa del Rey earlier in the week.
Osasuna, meanwhile, find themselves mired in the mid-table, sitting 12th after 28 games from 25 matches – six points clear of the relegation zone. Jagoba Arrasate’s side have won three of their last four league outings, including their latest game against Alaves and will be aiming to build on that against the Blaugrana.
The reverse fixture played in November last year saw Barcelona thrash Osasuna 4-0, with goals coming from Martin Braithwaite, Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Lionel Messi. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Chimy Avila has trained with his teammates over the last couple of days but the Barcelona fixture may have come too soon for him. However, Inigo Perez, Ruben Martinez Facundo Roncaglia and Inigo Alvarez are major doubts while Darko Brasanac should also miss out as he remains in isolation after coming in contact with a Covid-19 positive patient.
Jagoba Arrasate is unlikely to make any changes to the setup or personnel, with his team having done well in the game against Alaves last time out. That would mean Los Rojillos should take the field in a 4-4-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.
Nacho Vidal and Juan Cruz ought to be the two full-backs who are likely to stay tight at the back and refrain from venturing forward much. They should flank the central defensive partnership of Aridane Hernandez and David Garcia, who are likely to have their hands full against Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.
Captain Oier will anchor the midfield for Osasuna, trying to break up Barcelona’s play and stop them from building their rhythm. He will have support from summer signing Lucas Torro while Roberto Torres and Ruben Garcia occupy the wings and look to provide the attacking outlet for the home team.
At the top, the two-pronged strike force should comprise of Jonathan Calleri and Ante Budimir, who is Osasuna’s leading scorer in La Liga this term with six goals to his name.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Herrera; Vidal, Hernandez, David Garcia, Cruz; Torres, Oier, Torro, Ruben Garcia; Calleri, Budimir
Barcelona will once again be without the services of Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho and Sergi Roberto while Gerard Pique picked up another injury in the midweek game against Sevilla and is set to miss out. In addition, Ronald Araujo is unavailable as well, but Miralem Pjanic is back in the squad after having returned to training.
With a game against PSG coming up in the Champions League next week, Ronald Koeman is likely to make some alterations to the side that featured in midweek. The Catalans could also return to their favoured 4-3-3 setup on Saturday given Pique and Araujo’s unavailability.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 5, 2021
There is no looking past the brilliant Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal while the solid Oscar Mingueza should partner Samuel Umtiti at the heart of the Barcelona defence. Sergino Dest is the obvious choice at right-back while Junior Firpo could replace Jordi Alba on the left to give the veteran star a breather.
The returning Pjanic should come in for Sergio Busquets at the base of the Barcelona midfield from where he will look to dictate the tempo. Frenkie de Jong, though, is likely to be retained given his importance to the team. There could be a chance in the third midfield slot though, with Ilaix Moriba getting the nod over Pedri.
Ousmane Dembele was very impressive in the last two games against Sevilla but could be given a rest here with Francisco Trincao in line to receive some game-time. On the left flank, Antoine Griezmann should feature while Barcelona skipper Lionel Messi starts in a central role, although he will constantly drop deeper to get on the ball and make things happen.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Dest, Mingueza, Umtiti, Firpo; de Jong, Pjanic, Moriba; Trincao, Messi, Griezmann
- Barcelona have won their last seven away matches in La Liga. They have kept a clean sheet in five of those matches.
- Osasuna have won four of their last six league outings (L2) one more than they had managed in their previous 19 in the competition (W3 D7 L9).
- Barcelona are currently on a fifteen-game unbeaten run in La Liga (W12 D3). Only Manchester City are on a longer streak without defeat in Europe’s top five leagues (P19 W17 D2).
- Osasuna are unbeaten in two of their last three La Liga meetings against Barcelona (W1 D1 L1). However, the only defeat came in their most recent meeting against the Blaugrana earlier this season.
- Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has scored 23 goals in 19 La Liga appearances against Osasuna.
Player to Watch
Amid speculations that Barcelona are looking to offload Antoine Griezmann in the summer, it does not bode well for the Frenchman that he was left out of the starting XI for each of their last two games against Sevilla – both crucial encounters at that.
A tally of six goals from 23 league appearances does not reflect well on the 29-year-old, with him not having scored in his last four league games. While the change in formation played a part in his omission in the last couple of matches, it is now important that Griezmann makes the most of his chance when it comes on Saturday, if he is to have a future at the club.
Osasuna 0-2 Barcelona
Osasuna have been in good nick of late but they face Barcelona at a time when the Catalans are hitting their strides. Morale in the Catalan camp will be high following the comeback against Sevilla and given their recent form in La Liga as well as their record away from home, they should be able to pick up another victory on Saturday night.