In the preview of the Barcelona versus Osasuna at the Camp Nou, our editors try predicting the score and players to watch from this encounter.
The league may be over, but the season isn’t yet. With Real Madrid holding a four-point advantage at the top of the league table and needing only a win or two draws in the two remaining games, the trophy virtually is in Los Blancos‘ hands already. In any case, Barcelona must fight till there are no more mathematical options left, and must also look to prepare for the challenges ahead. Ahead of Barça’s home match against Osasuna on Thursday night, our editors predict the final score and share their player to watch out for from this clash.
Barcelona 3–1 Osasuna
Keeping fit for the Champions League
Madrid know it, culés know it, Luis Suárez knows it, everybody knows it: the La Liga title will go to Real Madrid for the first time since 2017 and the game against Osasuna seems pointless. Indeed, there isn’t much hope, other than applying some sort of pressure on Madrid while playing at the same time, but Barcelona have to be up for the fight.
The Catalans need games like the one in Villarreal, in which they won by 1–4, or the first half against Valladolid to keep the momentum ahead of the Champions League. With Antoine Griezmann injured, it will be interesting to see what Quique Setién will go for. Will the Cantabrian coach opt for a 4–3–3 or the 4–3–1–2 he has used recently? Will Ansu Fati or Martin Braithwaite start to show what they can do ahead of the Napoli game? Will culés see the Riqui Puig – Iván Rakitić – Frenkie de Jong triplet ahead of the Napoli clash, as Arturo Vidal and Sergio Busquets are both suspended for that one?
“To be honest, the league is almost impossible because there are only two games left”
Many interrogations ahead of the last glimmer of hope to end what has been a rollercoaster of a season. Setién should opt for a 4–3–1–2, with Riqui Puig, who is willing to run a lot, closer to the frontline in Griezmann’s place and a midfield three of Sergio, Rakitić and Frenkie to top it all off. In Braithwaite’s case, he should definitely have his deserved minutes, as a starter or a substitute as he has sat down too many times in the past few games.
Culés should also note that this defence needs next to no adjustments and Setién seems to have found the right balance at the back but the toothless attack does not match it. If Real Madrid do slip up, Barça have to pounce on the occasion and make them pay for their mistakes: this win against Osasuna is vital.
Player to watch: Riqui Puig
The fans’ eyes should be scotched to Riqui Puig’s boots, but not for the reasons that you think. Riqui has cemented his place in the first team and warrants a starting spot, that is not the reason why he’s in this section. The way Setién will use his prodigy is a vaguer topic, and the La Masía graduate’s role will depend on the formation.
As explained, Setién could opt again for a 4–3–1–2 and Riqui would be essential behind the striker, especially if Suárez starts. His runs with and without the ball keep this team in the game at times, and he could substitute Griezmann to perfection, mostly if Setién wants to familiarise De Jong in this kind of system.
If Quique uses Riqui in a 4–3–3, then it will be business as usual for everyone, and that would mean the scintillating Ansu Fati will get a start. This dynamic duo could cause havoc in the opposition’s half. All eyes on Riqui to see how he will be used.
Barcelona 2–0 Osasuna
A managers conundrum
The La Liga has flown past since the restart. In the penultimate game for this season, Barcelona are pitted against tricky opponents. The freshly promoted Osasuna side have not at all looked like a team that played in the Segunda last season. They have been competing neck to neck with some of Primeras regulars including Valencia and Betis. Just when they were seeming to lose steam, football was called off. Now they look renewed once again with four wins in their last six games.
Frenkie de Jong hasn’t played since the opening post-pandemic game against Mallorca | Photo by David Ramos via Getty Images
With the league all but lost, all eyes will be on Quique Setién. Will he choose to rotate the team with the Champions League in mind? Or will he continue to play key players in the blind hope of in improbable slip-up by Real Madrid?
Player to watch: Frenkie de Jong
The injury to Frenkie de Jong a month ago was a massive dent to Barcelona’s title hopes. Most of the midfield revolved around his creativity and ability to keep the ball. Though the team managed to hold on to results to a great extent, that spark in the midfield was always missing. With Setién confirming that he will get minutes against Osasuna, all eyes will be on him and his form. After all, Barcelona need him to be available in full flow to stand any chance in the upcoming UEFA Champions League.
Barcelona 3–0 Osasuna
The end is nigh
The 2019/20 season of La Liga Santander is at its business end as only two rounds remain now. FC Barcelona’s two-year long reign as the champions of Spain might end even sooner though, as a mere two points separate their arch-rivals Real Madrid from clinching the title.
The fans have all but given up hope. However, as far as the team is concerned, this is not the time or place to sit back and lament. The season is not over yet, and nor is the title race. Even if the chances are meagre, the team needs to believe in itself and do what it has to do. They may not win the title, but they can still step down with their head held high. Not to mention how these performances would help their cause in the upcoming Champions League knockout tournament, in terms of confidence.
While it may look like Barcelona and Osasuna have nothing to play for, both will be aiming at the win for many more reasons than just numbers | Photo by Carlos Sánchez Martínez / Icon Sportswire via Imago
The squad would be aware of this and would want to fight out the rest of the games with all they have got. With that in mind, I believe they will go on to put up one of their better performances tonight. This of course depends upon whether manager Quique Setién gets the team sheet right. Including Riqui Puig in the starting eleven would be a good place to start.
Player to watch: Riqui Puig
It is amazing how this diminutive young midfielder has become so important to this Barça side that has some of the biggest names in world football on its roaster; and that too in such a short time. But the difference that his presence makes on the pitch is there for anyone to see.
Against Real Valladolid over the weekend, the blaugranas produced a stellar show with Riqui Puig on the pitch. Nevertheless, the changes that manager Setién made in the second half, including swapping Puig for Iván Rakitić, brought the whole tempo down. Thus, against an Osasuna side that held Barcelona on a 2–2 draw in the previous match-up, Barça need their young starlet on the pitch.
Juventus vs Barcelona: Match Preview
UEFA Champions League is back again as Barça travel to Turin for their most challenging game of the group stage.
Date and kick-off time: Wednesday 28 October 2020, 21:00 CET
Stadium: Allianz Stadium
Competition: UEFA Champions League, Group Stage, Matchday 2
Referee: Danny Makkelie
The first matchday of the UEFA Champions League was as eventful as it can get. Across eight groups, the teams displayed some impressive football kicking off this year’s tournament. In group G, the big guns played the underdogs of the group and walked away with comfortable wins. Now, in the second matchday, they face each other in one of the most exciting clashes of the week.
Barcelona come into this game on the back of a disappointing defeat in El Clásico. While the Blaugranas won their first Champions League game last week, they are winless in three games in the league. The initial test for the new manager was to get past the three challenging games, and Ronald Koeman has failed in all three. The gruelling month finishes off with yet another testing game at Turin.
Juventus, too are on the path to a similar season, adapting to a club legend as their new manager as Andrea Pirlo takes charge at the helm. While they opened their Champions League account with a two-nil win away at Dynamo Kyiv, they have struggled in their league. The Old Lady have had only two victories in Serie A, of which one got awarded to them as Napoli failed to turn up at the Allianz Stadium.
“There are great players in Barça, despite some absences. The keys for us will be desire and determination. It will be difficult, but beautiful.”Andrea Pirlo
Both the teams have significant absences in their squads. The centre-back spot is especially on crisis mode as injuries and suspension have caused a severe lack of personnel at the position. Juventus miss Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt to injuries with Leonardo Bonucci also a doubt as he got off the pitch midway vs Hellas Verona.
Alex Sandro (left-back) is also unavailable with Merish Demiral being the only fully-fit centre-half. One of the most vital absentees is Cristiano Ronaldo, as the Portuguese is yet to recover from COVID-19.
Barcelona will be without the services of Gerard Piqué as the Spaniard is suspended after picking up a red last game. Philippe Coutinho is set for a spell away from the action with a muscle injury joining the likes of March-Andre ter Stegen and Samuel Umtiti. Ronald Araújo and Clement Lenglet are the only two centre-backs in the squad with B-team CBs also injured and not included here. On the plus side, all the fullbacks are back to full fitness.
What to expect from Juventus?
Andrea Pirlo took over the reins from Maurizio Sarri over the summer as his first-ever coaching job at the top level. The Professor came into the job with a specific idea to play football and has been trying to implement it. The Italian has preferred a 3-4-1-2 system with two centre-backs, coupled with Danilo making the backline. The back-three helps in building from defence with able ball-carriers in either Rabiot or Arthur. But, with the centre-backs stretched thin, the Italian has chosen to go with a back four.
“We’ll play with four in defence, it’s the only viable solution at this time. In midfield it will be a challenge between two very technical departments.”Andrea Pirlo
New loan signing Federico Chiesa could start on the left-wing with Juan Cuadrado likely to be deployed as the right-back against Barça. Danilo could be on the left-back duties with the lack of options there. Adrien Rabiot, Arthur Melo, and Rodrigo Bentancur might make up the midfield to get a better balance. New signings Alvaro Morata and Dejan Kulusevski finish the teamsheet with Paulo Dybala slowly progressing his way into the starting eleven.
Both Chiesa and Cuadrado are able crossers with both feet and with Alvaro Morata upfront, they could always find him at the end of their crosses. Dejan Kulusevski is an excellent prospect with quick feet and stinger of a shot, who came off the bench to rescue a point during the weekend for the Bianconeri. With players like Paolo Dybala and Aaron Ramsey, Pirlo has a lot of quality on the bench.
Pirlo would want his side to exploit the Barcelona defence by getting in behind their two-man midfield. With a different formation, the Italian would like his team to adapt quickly and get in the half-spaces. The 41-year-old might make his team pass the ball quickly to avert the press and get up the pitch as fast as possible.
What to expect from Barcelona?
Ronald Koeman has had a mixed response from the fans in these first few games. While he’s not afraid to bench the senior players when not performing, his in-game management has been nothing short of unavailing. The Dutchman has thrown in attacking players for defenders and midfielders when chasing the game. And that has resulted in an imbalance of the midfield leaving the defenders reeling due to numerical inferiority.
Philippe Coutinho is injured, and there are a variety of players in-line to replace the Brazilian. Antonie Griezmann could get back into the eleven after barely featuring over the last two games. Or Koeman could continue with the impressive Pedri and play one of Trincao or Dembele in the right-wing. While Ansu Fati started as a nine over the weekend, he could return to the left-wing this time around.
❗Official — The squad list to face Juventus:— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) October 27, 2020
Dest, Araujo, Busquets, Aleñá, Griezmann, Pjanic, Braithwaite, Messi, Dembélé, Puig, Neto, Lenglet, Pedri, Trincao, Alba, Roberto, De Jong, Fati, Firpo, Iñaki Peña, Arnau Tenas.
Ronald Araújo and Clement Lenglet are the only options at centre-back, and Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba might partner them in defence giving rest to Sergiño Dest. Miralem Pjanic could come into the eleven considering a dip in Sergio Busquets’ performance of late. With two mobile midfielders, Barça could cover the spaces the fullbacks leave and prevent the counter-attacks.
Ronald Koeman would be hoping for that Lionel Messi, brings his shooting boots tomorrow. While the Argentine has been excellent in overall play, his output goal-wise has been surprisingly underwhelming. A big game like this would be an ideal time to get back his mojo in front of the goal and further help the team.
Previous games: DWDWD
Juventus 1–1 Verona | Serie A
Dynamo Kyiv 0–2 Juventus| UEFA Champions League
Crotone 1–1 Juventus | Serie A
Juventus 3–0 Napoli | Serie A (Juventus awarded walk-over)
Roma 2–2 Juventus | Serie A
Position in Serie A
9 points in 5 games
2 wins, 3 draws and 0 loss
10 Goals Scored, 4 Goal Conceded
+6 Goal Difference
Previous games: LWLDW
Barcelona 1–3 Real Madrid | La Liga
Barcelona 5–1 Ferencváros | UEFA Champions League
Getafe 1–0 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1–1 Sevilla | La Liga
Celta Vigo 0–3 Barcelona | La Liga
Position in La Liga
7 points in 5 games
2 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses
9 Goals Scored, 5 Goals Conceded
+4 Goal Difference
Last 5 meetings
Juventus 0–0 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League 17/18
Barcelona 3–0 Juventus | UEFA Champions League 17/18
Barcelona 0–0 Juventus | UEFA Champions League 16/17
Juventus 3–0 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League 16/17
Juventus 1–3 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League Final 14/15
• Juventus have won 7 of their last 8 matches (Champions League).
• Barcelona have scored at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 6 matches (Champions League).
• Barcelona are unbeaten in four of their last five meetings against Juventus.
• Juventus are unbeaten in all competitions this season.
Injured: Cristiano Ronaldo, Matthijs de Ligt, Alex Sandro, Giorgio Chiellini
Cuadrado · Demiral · Bonucci · Danilo
Rabiot · Bentancur · Arthur
Kulusevski · Morata · Chiesa
Coach: Andrea Pirlo
Injured: Samuel Umtiti (knee), Marc-André ter Stegen (Tendon), Philippe Coutinho (Hamstring)
Suspended: Gerard Piqué
Roberto · Araújo · Lenglet · Alba
Pjanic · de Jong
Trincao · Griezmann · Fati
Coach: Ronald Koeman
A big game for both the managers as they try to bring their sides back to form. A win here would help the winner get a sufficient advantage of finishing at the top of the group. Injuries have stretched both Barcelona and Juventus thin, and this is a chance for the deputies to perform and impress their respective gaffers. With both sides equally struggling for form, it is expected to go down to the wire in Turin.
Barça Universal Prediction: 1-2 win for the Catalans.