Following an unimpressive 1-2 home loss against Osasuna, our editors share their takes and standout performances from the Barcelona defeat over Osasuna.
On Thursday, once more, Barça let down their fans. As had almost been the norm this season, the Catalans disappointed when it really mattered. With a 1–2 loss against Osasuna in the final game at the Camp Nou of the league campaign, and Real Madrid’s 2–1 win over Villarreal, Los Blancos were crowned league champions. The poor feelings and outcome left all culés hopeless despite the season not being over yet. Meanwhile, after the defeat against Osasuna, our editors express their opinions and standout performers from such disheartening duel.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!
Despair, hope, and heartbreak were at the center of attention tonight, as Real Madrid won the title for the first time in two years. This game was a tough pill to swallow as Barça dominated possession. Still, Osasuna’s five-at-the-back formation, Setién’s worst nightmare, was too structured for Barça to break it down and the Basque side stung the Culés twice to destroy Barça’s unbeaten home record at the death. First, after 15 minutes of complete Barça domination, a lucky breakthrough from Osasuna resulted in a goal and ex-Barça B player José Arnaíz stun Ter Stegen early to give his side the lead. After that, Osasuna sat back and shut up the shop to give Barcelona no breathing room. It was horrible to see a side so negative, but so be it, Osasuna play like this, Barça must adapt and not whine. Some free-kick and corner attempts by Leo Messi and the first half ended in despair, as Real Madrid found an opener in their game fifteen minutes earlier.
After the second half, Barça pushed hard, and it was nice to see such a change in energy, even though it all counted for nothing. Three goals from the giants came, but two were marginally offside. Also, Messi’s free-kick was the most beautiful strike since the return for the Blaugrana side. The Culés pushed hard and gambled too much to pull the comeback off. It was laborious at times, but the last minutes were good from the Culés, granted the football was rushed, and Osasuna stung for the second time. This last counter-attack hurts so much, as Osasuna surely did not deserve that result and the Catalans have to look back at this game and play better for the Champions League. In the end, it changed nothing, as Real Madrid won the league. Still, these two stings hurt.
Standout performer: The whole Osasuna defense
Holding off Barça isn’t this hard nowadays, but restricting them to two shots on target is more than impressive. The five-man defence of Osasuna was magnificent, from Pervis Estupiñan’s explosiveness down the left flank to Aridane Hernandez keeping his team alive by blocking shots from Ansu Fati and Leo Messi like a warrior. It was this kind of night for the eleven warriors on the pitch for Osasuna, who had to cope with ten men for the last ten minutes and played magnificently as a unit. This game doesn’t have one standout performer, but five, especially as Barça weren’t clinical enough and no one kept their head above water other than Messi, as per. Raul Navas’ repeated blocks were crucial in saving the newly-promoted side, and the Real Sociedad loanee can be proud of his performance. All in all, Osasuna essentially won thanks to their defence, and they could be proud of their performance tonight, as they have shown they’re a Primera side.
A Game Reminiscent of the Season
As usual, Lionel Messi is spot on, albeit this time with his words rather than his feet. This game is reminiscent of the whole season that Barca had; wasted opportunities to go ahead, making silly mistakes, frustration. Don’t get me wrong, they did not play that bad. They had a humungous possession percent of 75%. Sure, that on its own does not mean anything. But they also fired 17 shots in search of a goal and had won ten corners. They even had two goals chalked off for off-side. The lone goal came from a Messi free-kick. All those corner kicks went bust. ‘We had ten corners. If we had scored one, the result would have been different,’ lamented the manager. Which begs the question, does Barca really practice their corners and set pieces at all? Or is it just Messi who keeps working on his free-kicks? I am not sure there are many top sides in world football that would come up empty after ten corner kicks. Someone needs to do something about this.
?️ — Messi: "I said it before, if we continue like this, we won't win the UCL. Look, we've just lost the league." pic.twitter.com/nfvKw7VPnt— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) July 16, 2020
I had predicted that the squad would come up with a fight, clawing for each ball and giving everything. But even though the ball circulation and dynamism was good, there was despair on the faces of the Blaugranes throughout the match. It was evident on the faces of leaders like Gerard pique and even Lionel Messi. More than anything, therefore, I think this team needs to work on its attitude, so as to make sure they do not lose games even before stepping on to the pitch.
Standout performer: Lionel Messi
One has got to feel bad for the Barca captain at this point. Week after week, match after match, the team just does not turn up to support and fight alongside its captain. Messi was everywhere yesterday, fighting for loose balls, pressing, skipping through the half spaces, trying his signature reference point one-two-ones with anyone available in the final third. Many of those times, the ball just did not come back to him. But mostly no one really worked well enough to attract the defenders away from him – as has been typical of this season. It is to his credit that even in such a frustrating match, he scored a magical free-kick; even as every team comes up with novel techniques to stop him from doing exactly that.
Nothing short of mediocre
A win for Madrid would have sent them to the crown, sure, it was going to happen with the form they had picked up post lockdown. But what happened to Barcelona? A home game against bottom half Osasuna; Messi, Puig, Fati starting. Lenglet, Pique in form. Maybe the team was too demotivated knowing they would – in all probability – lose their defence of the title. However, nothing excuses them for such a shambolic display.
2 shots on target against a side that had conceded more than half a century of goals is inexcusable. The fullbacks were non-existent, Rakitic was absent from the only role he plays well in. As a Barca fan, it seems quite difficult to grasp my head around the game yesterday. Sacking Setien is not an option, what we need is a change of mentality. Desperately.
Standout performer: Lionel Messi
Till how long is this man going to drag us over the mud? He’s 33, obviously on the last juncture of his career, and absolutely done with the board and management. Lionel Messi took our only shots on goal yesterday, one of which was converted through a sublime freekick. However, he summed up the situation at the club and the game yesterday better than any fan could have. It’s time for change.
3 takeaways from Dynamo Kyiv 0-4 Barcelona
Completely contradictory to Barcelona’s first 45 minutes, Ronald Koeman’s side were utterly unplayable after proceedings, producing a performance even the veterans would have failed to replicate. A blistering brace from Martin Braithwaite and a goal, each, from Sergino Dest and Antoine Griezmann secured a thumping 4-0 victory for the visitors.
Effective occupation of spaces, fluid sequences in the final third and marauding full-backs providing width with supreme assertion allowed the club to run riot at the NSC Olimpiyskiy: a spectacle one is not blessed with every day.
With the Catalan giants cementing a spot in the Champions League round of 16, the battle with Juventus for the top spot in Group G has been lit up. If the club continue to salvage convincing victories in their next two fixtures, managing to show similar displays against Ferncvaros and Juventus, then Barca’s status as group leaders will undoubtedly continue to prevail.
1. A dream debut for Oscar Mingueza
Throwing shades of a veteran who had played the game for decades, Mingueza embarked on his debut with nerves of steel. The blonde beaming prodigy from La Masia was handed the burdensome responsibility of replacing Gerard Pique. Still, instead of succumbing under the immense pressure, he was foretold, Mingueza rose to the occasion with conviction in his strengths, belief in his abilities and assurance that he was worthy of representing the pristine Blaugrana emblem.
While the Spaniard’s aggressive nature and robust personality were surprising facets on the field, given this was his very first game with the senior squad, he seemed to walk the talk with his composure in possession and positional maturity. Every time Oscar would progress the ball forward, he would be back just in time to aid Lenglet at the back.
🗣 — Koeman: “Mingueza must continue working hard. He has shown that he can be relied upon.”— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 24, 2020
Committing into tackles with extreme tidiness, the 21-year-old also won a majority of his duels and predicted the opposition’s next move with flawless anticipation, a trait that has invariably helped La Masia center-backs stand a cut above the rest.
Despite Mingueza’s passing looking slightly shaky at the beginning, he gradually grew into the game, showcasing his innate distribution from the back. Eventually, the icing on the cake proved to be the moment Oscar bagged himself a terrific assist from a corner kick as his subtle touch from the near post allowed Braithwaite to extend Barca’s lead.
As options at centre-back continue to deplete, Mingueza could prove to be a vital piece in Koeman’s squad. It could certainly be argued that he is yet to refine his abilities in one-versus-one duels, but for a player that has a whole career ahead of him, improvement in various other sectors of his gameplay are bound to enhance his stature.
2. Sergino Dest keeps proving himself
After an esteemed performance against Real Madrid in El Clasico, Dest had been an irregular member of Barca’s line-ups. Despite his awe-inspiring exhibition, Ronald Koeman stubbornly refrained from naming him as the club’s primary right-back. However, with Sergi Roberto out due to injury and Koeman gravely lacking options, the former Ajax prodigy was provided with the opportunity to feature in the XI, as he savoured the occasion till the very last minute.
One can comfortably deem the American sensation to be Dynamo Kyiv’s biggest nightmare. Springing up-field with flair and taking on defenders as if they were mere training dummies, Dest was simply brimming in confidence. While his output in the final third was outright unparalleled, particularly for a full-back, never did he seem to leave his defensive duties rejected as his positioning remained unblemished for a majority of the match.
A finish so good, even the opposition look in awe of it. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)
Along with executing some superbly timed runs, Dest also created a multitude of chances for his partners in crime. Frequently barraging in crosses as he raided down the right flank, the 20-year-old managed to locate players in exceedingly fruitful areas. Besides, he maintained fluid passing sequences amongst the front-line, which in due course paid him dividends as he etched his name on the score-line.
After giving the visitors a much-awaited lead through a beautifully placed finish, his influence continued to enlarge. From savvy dummies to cheeky elasticos, Dest was the embodiment of dripping in sauce. The Catalans have been in dire need of a full-back with such a dynamic profile, a player that can not only flaunt his pace; but also utilize it to the fullest, and it appears that they may have finally struck gold with this distinctive talent.
3. Carles Alena is a gem waiting to be unearthed
Sitting comfy at first place in Barcelona’s respective Champions League group, the Catalans were in pole position to rest key starters and award the reserves with an opportunity to highlight their excellence on the grand stage, where a fair assessment could be made on their talents and capacities.
Unsurprisingly, Carles Alena seized this chance firmly, making the most of his inclusion the line-up as well as prompting Ronald Koeman to appreciate the depth in his squad by a considerable margin.
Starting in a double pivot alongside Miralem Pjanic, the Spaniard had to be more involved defensively at the base of midfield, but despite him excelling most as a number 10, Alena ensured he would make his presence count in midfield.
Alongside displaying some terrific ball retention skills, the Spaniard showed that he has the capability to advance the ball even when found in tight areas or under immense pressure from the opposition. Squirming his way out of compact zones with immense delicacy, he managed to effectively resist all sorts of oppression from the Ukrainian side.
Alena’s body orientation before receiving the ball always enabled him to progress the ball forward and find spaces to exploit in Dynamo’s rigid back-line, hastening the club’s movement in possession in a free-flowing manner. It was due to his unmatched affinity towards playing progressive passes that helped the Azulgranas catch Kyiv off guard on numerous occasions. What was so staggering about his performance was the fact that he completed 106 out of 107 passes, with an accuracy of 99.1%.
📊 — Aleñá completed 106 out of 107 passes against Kyiv with a pass success percentage of 99.1%. Outrageous! pic.twitter.com/e3h0O88YsP— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 24, 2020
As an interior, as a pivot or as a number 10, Carles Alena is a special talent, seeing the game with eagle-eyed awareness and doing his immaculate technical ability justice unfailingly on occasions like these. After being shunned out of the starting XI ever since the pre-season concluded, the 22-year-old made the ideal declaration to not only fans who were beginning to write him off; but also Ronald Koeman, who habitually abstained from looking in his direction.
Could this finally be a turning point in Alena’s underappreciated career?