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.
Barcelona 1-0 Elche: Match Review
In their last pre-season game, Barcelona had to play at the top of their game before the match against Villarreal next Sunday. In the Gamper trophy, Barcelona showed many promising signs, especially in attack. However, the main talking point was Riqui Puig being left out of the squad.
Barcelona started the half really well as the movement was already better than what they showed in 2019/20, and the stale ball circulation became a fluid passing game which made Elche leave a lot of space behind.
Leo Messi started the recital with a typical pass to Jordi Alba, in acres of space, who had the time to give the ball to Griezmann whose run was everything Barça missed. Griezmann opened the scoring, and Barcelona kept going, in vain. However, the Catalans did try to breach the Elche defence and, at times, only a clinical striker was missing to be leading by 3 or 4 goals at the half.
With Griezmann’s shot stopped, Messi’s electrifying free-kick parried, and Coutinho’s header turned to a corner, Barcelona had the chances but no clinical touch. They continued with the excellent ball circulation while moving a lot to open spaces. One of the best moments of the game came in the 19th minute when Messi jogged back, and Griezmann ran into space to open the play for Sergi Roberto, and the action finished with a failed header by the Blaugrana attackers.
A good half that shows what Barça need: Clinical finishing.
Barcelona came in the second half with no changes and continued dominating the game without scoring goals. With the same enthusiasm and movement, the Culés found breaches in Elche’s defence and tried exploiting them with the same players.
However, at the half-hour mark, Koeman opted for a triple change and on came Ousmane Dembélé, Francisco Trincão and the long-awaited Miralem Pjanic. The former had the first bite of the cherry with a superb move from the edge of the area, dribbling one defender on his way to shoot straight at the keeper. Again, Barcelona didn’t have this clinical touch, and it cost them.
A few minutes after Dembélé’s effort, Philippe Coutinho, who had a decent game, passed the ball exquisitely to Trincão, whose questionable finishing didn’t match his excellent movement. He played well with great openings at times, just what Barça need on the wing. Pedri also came on and had a chance after Dembélé ran into space to give a great pass across the face of the goal.
Miralem Pjanic also should’ve won a penalty but the main talking point of the last minutes was a golden chance for Elche to get back on track. Still, thankfully, after horrific defending from the Blaugrana side, Neto put on his hero cloak and saved a shot at point-blank range.
A good victory, where perhaps the fans should’ve seen more goals, but at least there are promising signs. ¡Visca el Barça!
Final score: Barça 1-0 Elche.