The penultimate game of the La Liga campaign is upon us. Barça still sit four points behind leaders Real Madrid, in a title race which seems to be over realistically. However, the Catalans need to win every game to at least keep the point difference intact. Here’s the preview of the match between Barcelona and Osasuna.
Date and kick-off time: Thursday 16 July 2020, 21:00 CET
Stadium: Camp Nou
Competition: La Liga, matchday 37
Referee: José María Sánchez Martínez
Although mathematically not done yet, Real Madrid more or less have the La Liga trophy in the bag. They are four points ahead, and a win or one Barcelona slip away from sealing the championship this matchday. With nothing in their hands at the moment, Barça can only hope to win the two remaining games, and make sure to pick up some form for the impending Champions League clash against Napoli on August 8.
During the visit to Real Valladolid last matchday, Quique Setién and Barcelona showed some improvisation and tactical flexibility in the first half. Setién started with the system he implemented when he joined, with a back three and Sergi Roberto as a false right centre-back, but soon went back to the regular formation once Antoine Griezmann got injured at half-time. Valladolid bettered their gameplan and grew into the game to make things difficult for Barça, but the visitors scraped through for a one-nil victory.
Aged 16, Ansu Fati scored his first Barcelona goal in a 2–2 draw against Osasuna earlier this season | Photo by Jess Diges via Imago
Now, Barcelona turn hosts as Osasuna visit the Camp Nou on Thursday night. Of the three clubs which got the promotion last term, Granada and Osasuna have positioned themselves very well in the middle of the table, much to everyone’s surprise. With a win, the visitors could even step into the top half of the table. In the reverse fixture, the blaugranas drew 2–2 at El Sadar, with midfielder Arthur Melo coming off the bench to bring some life into the game. Now, at the Camp Nou, with a better and fit squad, the result might not be the same.
What to expect from Barcelona?
Barcelona have shown glimpses of brilliance over the last few fixtures, but have not stamped their authority yet. With the 3–5–2 system during the opening moments of the Valladolid, the players were very mobile and often found themselves in attacking zones. Barça successfully evaded the press and were creating excellent chances. Right-back Nélson Semedo got the free attacking role he craved and shone brightly till the change of system. Even with the deep defence, Barça were able to break lines and get into dangerous zones.
Due to the injury to Antoine Griezmann and change in the system for Pucela, Barça switched to their usual system. They lost their bright attacking energy and dropped to defend the relentless attack of the hosts. What seemed like an easy win, ended up being a scraping one-nil victory. This time around, the Catalans’ squad is much better, as Frenkie de Jong, Arthur Melo and Ansu Fati return for contention.
The comeback of the Dutchman is especially exciting as he could play in the hybrid centre-back / midfielder role Sergi Roberto has been taking up recently. He occupied a similar position in Ajax, and the culés could finally see him in full strength. However, it is unlikely that he will start the game, but could see some minutes for sure. Ansu Fati returns from suspension and fills the void of an injured Griezmann.
“To be honest, the league is almost impossible because there are only two games left”
If Quique Setién feels that the 3–5–2 is the way to go with no proper wingers, then he should make the team comfortable with the system before the all-important Champions League duel. Fixing his best eleven is necessary while competing in knockout tournaments. Even though the La Liga title is out of reach, the season is far from over, and he must prepare the team for the same.
What to expect from Osasuna?
Having been relegated to the second tier of Spanish football in the 2016/17 season, Osasuna fought their way back to the top division as Segunda champions. Jagoba Arrasate got the reins of the team in June 2018 and successfully steered them back to La Liga last campaign. This term not only have they successfully stayed up, but they have also kept themselves well clear of the drop zone with a possible top ten finish.
“Regardless of what happens in these two matches, the season will have been very good, but it is true that tomorrow we have the opportunity to put the cherry on top of the cake”
Osasuna coach in press conference before visiting Barcelona
Osasuna are a tricky side to face in La Liga. They play with a lot of heart and defend with all their men. While they prefer to play without the ball, they are no slouches on it. With a squad with considerably height advantage, they tend to stretch the defences using their width and put in dangerous crosses into the box. With attackers like Chimy Ávila, Roberto Torres and Rubén García, they are not afraid to have a go at the goal from range.
“All that’s obtaining points will be a surprise”
on Osasuna’s chances in the game against Barcelona
However, for this encounter, Osasuna miss almost half a dozen of players due to injury, which includes Chimy Ávila, their top scorer but who is recovering from a cruciate ligament tar. Alongside him, Marc Cordona, Robert Ibáñez, Unai García and Rubén García get sidelined too. Former Barça B winger or striker José Arnáiz, having scored his first goal for Los Rojillos in extra time in a 2–1 win over Celta de Vigo on the weekend, could start versus his previous club. The manager Arrasate is known to switch personnel and formations and could go with a back five against Barcelona.
Last 5 games: WWWDD
Real Valladolid 0–1 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1–0 Espanyol | La Liga
Villarreal 1–4 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 2–2 Atlético de Madrid | La Liga
Celta de Vigo 2–2 Barcelona | La Liga
Position in La Liga
79 points in 36 games
24 wins, 7 draws and 5 losses
80 Goals Scored, 36 Goals Conceded
+44 Goal Difference
Last 5 games: WLDWW
Osasuna 2–1 Celta de Vigo | La Liga
Real Betis 3–0 Osasuna | La Liga
Osasuna 0–0 Getafe | La Liga
Eibar 0–2 Osasuna | La Liga
Osasuna 2–1 Leganés | La Liga
Position in La Liga
48 points in 35 games
12 wins, 12 draws and 12 losses
42 Goals Scored, 51 Goals Conceded
–9 Goal Difference
Last 5 meetings
Osasuna 2–2 Barcelona | La Liga, 19/20
Barcelona 7–1 Osasuna | La Liga, 16/17
Osasuna 0–3 Barcelona | La Liga, 16/17
Barcelona 7–0 Osasuna | La Liga, 13/14
Osasuna 0–0 Barcelona | La Liga, 13/14
• Barcelona have scored at least four goals in their last five home matches against Osasuna in all competitions
• Barcelona have won their last seven home encounters with Osasuna in all competitions
• Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in five of their last six home games in La Liga
• Thursday’s meeting is the last home clash for Barcelona in this La Liga season
Team news and possible line-ups
Injured: Ousmane Dembélé (hamstring), Samuel Umtiti (knee), Antonie Griezmann (aductor)
Semedo · Piqué · Lenglet · Jordi Alba
Sergi Roberto · Busquets · Riqui Puig
Coach: Quique Setién
“The fatigue is taking a toll on us and the players are saturated, which is normal because there are many encounters in few days”
Injured: Chimy Ávila, Marc Cordona, Robert Ibáñez, Unai García, Rubén García
David García · Raúl Navas · Aridane
Nacho Vidal · Moncayola · Fran Mérida · Lato
Arnáiz · Enric Gallego · Kike Barja
Coach: Jagoba Arrasate
Osasuna will have some key absences at the Camp Nou, as has been the case in recent weeks | Photo by David Ramos via Getty Images
The La Liga season is about to come to an end, and Barcelona’s eternal rivals might lift the trophy in this same matchday. There are little to no consequences for the result of this match, but Barça must not take it lightly and win at all costs. Quique Setién cannot take the visitors easily and must bring his A-game during the match to get a dominating triumph. The writer’s prediction for the game: 3–0 for the Catalans.
Preview: Barcelona’s strongest XI against Real Madrid
The title race is well and truly wide open. With Atletico Madrid still leaking points and Real Madrid trying to cope up with the tight schedule the Champions League brings with it, Barcelona would hope to be the favourites.
Barcelona travels to Madrid to face a team missing some big names. Sergio Ramos, Rafael Varane, Eden Hazard and Daniel Carvajal all miss out on the decisive clash. Nevertheless, if Los Blancos‘ performance against Liverpool is anything to go by, El Clasico will be a battle to remember. Meanwhile, Barcelona will once again have the services of Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
The result on Saturday will count for so much in the title race. In this creme-de-la-creme of clashes, here is how Barcelona could lineup against Real Madrid.
Marc Andre ter Stegen is always the first name on the list for Ronald Koeman. At the Alfredo de Stefano, the German wall will don the gloves and aim to keep the Madrid attack at bay.
Gerard Pique finds himself back in the Squad, however, it seems unlikely he will be given a start considering lack of match fitness. The three-man defence system has worked wonders for the Catalans, and Koeman will not look to change the system. A trio of Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza, and Clement Lenglet could possibly start on Saturday.
Oscar Mingueza has been rock solid and on a constant rise. With every passing game, the youngster’s confidence grows, and so does the performance. Meanwhile, Clement Lenglet had a tremendous game against Real Valladolid, hardly placing a foot wrong. The Frenchman finally looks to be hitting his stride. Ronald Araujo is fit and ready to start once again and will have to be the leader on the field on the night.
The midfield is where the game will be won or lost for Barcelona. The hosts boast of one of the most fearsome trios in midfield, who reiterated their greatness against Liverpool midweek.
Up against Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, it will be crucial for Frenkie de Jong to start in midfield. The Dutchman is one of the best in the business in controlling the tempo of the midfield.
The No.21 will be accompanied by Barcelona’s veteran maestro Sergio Busquets. Busquets will account for so much of controlling the midfield. Moreover, his distribution and defensive contributions will be invaluable.
Pedri will complete the midfield alongside the others. The recently internationally capped Spaniard will have to be on the top of his game at the di Stefano. He will be the fulcrum of Barcelona’s creative outlet.
Sergino Dest did face stagnation in performance last month. In the last few games, however, there has been a resurgence. The USMNT fullback has been more lively than ever in attack and has been completing take-one for fun. It will be crucial for him to exploit the right-wing on the night.
Jordi Alba will unsurprisingly continue to start at left wing-back. With Real Madrid being weakened at right-back, Alba will have his chance on a platter to once again come up trumps.
Ousmane Dembele has often been Koeman’s go-to option as a central player in the new formation. Once again, a two-man forward line could see the Frenchman return to duties in the front line.
Lionel Messi had a relatively quiet game against Valladolid, his first one in 2021. However, he will look to step up on the biggest stage in El Clasico, as he always does. The Argentine has been at the peak of his powers this year, and he could inspire the side to another title with a great game tonight.
Dembele · Messi
Alba · Pedri · Busquets · de Jong · Dest
Lenglet · Araujo · Mingueza
Antoine Griezmann, who recently welcomed his third child, will be more motivated than ever to return to his peak powers. The Frenchman undoubtedly has a celebration or two in store for the latest member of his family and will hunt for a chance to showcase it on Saturday.
Fransisco Trincao could come on for Ousmane Dembele late in the second half to bring in fresh legs. His intricate dribbling could prove invaluable on the night.
Ilaix Moriba could be utilized to ramp up the pressure in the midfield, while Riqui Puig is bound to get a few minutes as well.