This Saturday evening, Barcelona will travel to the Wanda Metropolitano to face Atlético Madrid in a huge La Liga clash and one of the biggest challenges for Ronald Koeman as of yet. But it won’t just be a huge test for the new gaffer but for some of his players as well.
Of course, all of them will have to show up if the Catalans are to beat the red-hot Rojiblancos but one player in particular will have a lot to prove come the weekend – Antoine Griezmann. Not many need reminding that the Frenchman has been struggling immensely as of late, undermined by bad luck and the lack of confidence, and could use a big game to bring him back to life.
But that’s what big players do, don’t they? They show up in big games. And this one, without too much exaggeration and disregarding El Clásico, might just be the biggest one of the 2020/21 campaign so far for the Catalans. Of course, it’s also true that Diego Simeone is yet to beat Barcelona in the domestic league throughout his tenure as Atlético Madrid’s coach but this could be his best chance as of yet.
Not only that but the season as a whole where both Barça and Real Madrid are somewhat weaker than in the years gone by, Cholo could finally reach for that trophy once again, for the first time since that faithful 2013/14.
However, the Azulgranas will be hoping that Griezmann himself will have something to say on that matter. With two goals and one assist in La Liga so far, it would be premature to say the forward has had a disastrous campaign but a player of his quality can and should be giving more.
And maybe this reunion with his former club could jog his memory a bit. It’s not exactly a do or die situation but it’s certainly territory in which the Frenchman thrives. High stakes, all eyes on him and 90 minutes to shut up all the haters – the perfect scenario for a masterclass.
His haircut is fresh, the occasion couldn’t be better and the stage is all set. Now is the time for him to shine and show all of his flair, ability and undeniable talent as a world-class player. Nothing more, nothing less.
And we know he has it in his locker. After all, it was Griezmann who both scored and assisted in the 2018 World Cup final to become the champion of the world, it was Griezmann who led Atlético Madrid to the La Liga title in 2013/14 with 16 goals and four assists and it was Griezmann who bagged two goals in the Europa Leauge final against Marseille in 2017/18 to crown the Rojiblancos champions as well.
So we know this is a player that loves the occasion and the occasion clearly loves him. Lately, we obviously haven’t been seeing the very best of him but a player of such class and quality doesn’t just lose it all overnight.
We’ve seen against Real Betis that he can be influential even when completely and utterly unlucky. That’s the Griezmann we know and love and that’s the Griezmann Koeman will want to see on Saturday night, only with his scoring boots on, of course.
Dread it, run from it, destiny still arrives. And Griezou is destined for greatness. Watch out Atlético Madrid because you don’t even know what’s coming.
How should Barcelona lineup against Osasuna?
Four wins in four games. Barcelona are cruising in their Champions League group, as they do every year. A second-string Blaugrana side, one that did not feature any of the four captains, was enough to tear down Dynamo Kyiv. The game midweek was not just important for the result in the Champions League but so many players on an individual level.
Carles Alena bossed the midfield with impeccable accuracy. A promising debut from the underrated Oscar Mingueza, desperately needed minutes for Riqui Puig. A performance from Martin Braithwaite and Sergino Dest that found them in the UCL Team of the Week!
Yet, the season seems to be sinking. The league seems to have slipped away even before its midway point. Injuries continue to damage even the existing fine line of hope. The bleeding must stop, but it just doesn’t seem to happen.
What to expect from Osasuna?
Los Rojillos sit level with Barcelona on points, having played nine games so far to the Catalans’ eight. Three wins, two draws and four losses see them sit at 14th, just one place below the hosts.
Arrasate will hope to mirror his Camp Nou exploits from last season. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)
The last time the two sides met at the Camp Nou was the only scar in Barcelona’s otherwise unbeaten home streak. It is a game that one remembers vividly. A last-minute goal from Kike Barja helped the visitors run away with three points, and put at end to Barcelona’s misery in the title race. If anything, it is a reason for Jagoba Arrasate to be enthusiastic for his return to the Catalan capital.
Arrasate has largely deployed a 4-4-2 for Osasuna this season, with Ante Budimir and Enric Gallego the usual starters in the attack. In defence, however, they have played a 5-3-2, echoing the side that played Barcelona at the Camp Nou last season.
Jon Moncayola has played as the deep midfielder, often slotting in between the centre-backs to assist in defensive responsibilities. One immediately associates Osasuna with their sturdy mid-block. They do not unnecessarily commit men forward for attack nor pressing.
Instead, Los Rojillos outnumber the opposition attack in their own half, and the five-man line leaves no spaces for the opposition to exploit. When this forces the attacking side to commit more men forward, Osasuna strike on the counter. In particular, advanced fullbacks easily fall prey to their ploys with large spaces left vacant behind them to be exploited.
Arrasate’s side thereafter looks to capitalise by their potent switches in play, and dangerous cutbacks from the wings. Indeed, it is a style of play that Barcelona have struggled to deal with in past years. With so many injuries in defence, it will be an uphill task for the Barcelona backline to hold off the rampant counters.
How should Barcelona line-up?
After being handed the captain’s band midweek, Marc-Andre ter Stegen will be back in goal at the Camp Nou.
In defence, however, Koeman surely has his reasons to panic. Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto and Ronald Araujo are not available owing to injuries, and the Dutchman finds himself in a fix.
Frenkie is expected to start, even if it means playing as a centre-back. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)
In central defence, Clement Lenglet will likely partner Frenkie de Jong. The dutch-protege enjoyed a day off on Tuesday as Koeman did not call his up to the squad. It will be a tricky pairing, but one tried and tested in recent weeks.
Given Sergi Roberto’s injury and Dest unlikely involvement in Sunday’s clash, Oscar Mingueza might start at Right-back. Unquestionably, it will be a new challenge for the youngster. Yet, not one beyond his capability.
At left-back, One expects Jordi Alba to return to his starting position after being rested against Kyiv.
Sergio Busquets is expected ahead of the clash, yet it may not be wise to let him start immediately. A performance like the one against Kyiv demands a follow up for Carles Alena. The La Masia graduate could start alongside Miralem Pjanic on the night.
The wingers will likely continue to be the same as the Champions League clash. Ousmane Dembele could get yet another start in his natural position-right wing. Pedri, whose stocks are rising by the day, could start on the left side in combination with Jordi Alba. The newly-turned 18-year-old’s vision and composure on the ball will be crucial to breakdown Osasuna’s air-tight defence.
As the no. 10, in between, the two wingers would likely be Lionel Messi. After getting a much-deserved rest against Kyiv, one hopes that the talisman finds his magic back. It has been a tough 48 hours for Leo, and he will be itching to put up a tribute performance in honour of his legendary national team icon — Diego Maradona
One can expect Messi to give a tribute to the late Diego Maradona today. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
In attack, Antoine Griezmann is the natural option after being rested in the last game. However, the Frenchman needs to up his game, because Martin Braithwaite is knocking at the doors as a potential starter as centre-forward.
Pedri · Messi · Dembele
Aleña · Pjanic
Alba · Lenglet · de Jong · Mingueza