Straight back from the international break and thrown into the deep end against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona have their work cut out for them. That the league has not been a fairytale for the Catalans is well known, and aptly reflected in the standings. Barcelona sit eighth in the table, having won less than half the games they have played. Yet, the silver lining to this dark cloud is the fact that their last game in La Liga was a dominating 5-2 demolition of Real Betis.
Nevertheless, there are doubts aplenty heading into this heavyweight clash. Ronald Koeman finds himself at the centre of a rather uncomfortable position, on multiple fronts.
A nasty clash in the game against Real Betis finds Ansu Fati ruled out for four months. The Guinea-Bissau born youngster was undoubtedly one of the star performers for the Catalans and one of their go-to men for goals. In his absence, who will lead the scoring?
To rub salt into the wound, Sergio Busquets too has been sidelined for the game on Saturday. Pedri too received a minor knock in his game with the Spain U-21 and did not participate in the following encounter as a precaution. Yet, will the 17-year-old be ready? The questions continue to pile up, and Koeman needs to find the answers on Saturday.
What to expect from Atletico Madrid?
Los Rojiblancos find themselves at third on the League standings, with five wins from their opening seven encounters. True to their philosophy, they have only conceded two goals in their seven games while scoring seventeen. If anything, this is an indication of their capability.
Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone has become one of the few sides in Europe to be distinctly associated with a particular style of play. The side is feared for their defensive resilience, compact lines and hardworking players. Their disciplined lines render them one of the most difficult sides to break down, a trend recent clashed against Barcelona reflect too.
Simeone has largely stuck to his successful 4-4-2 formation this season too, however with some personnel changes. Barcelona legend Luis Suarez now plays in the famous red-and-white colours of Madrid and is the first choice no.9 for the side. Unfortunately, however, he will miss the clash against Barcelona after testing positive for Coronavirus in the international break.
Felix and Suarez have formed a strong partnership, and Barcelona will be lucky that only one of them will feature against them. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
The last-minute departure of Thomas Partey left Los Rojiblancos in a fix. Nevertheless, a side that has the likes of Koke, Saul Niguez, Hector Herrera and Marcos Llorente can seldom be in trouble.
The key for Simeone’s side, however, has been the young Portuguese prodigy up-front, Joao Felix. Many regard him as the best player in La Liga this season. Hs magical feet are capable of breaking down even the most experienced of defences with astounding ease. He is a match-winner and one that Barcelona will have to keep a close eye on throughout the game.
How should Barcelona line-up?
Compensating for the loss of Ansu Fati will be an uphill task for the Dutchman. Nevertheless, there is no denying that Barcelona do have a lot of firepower left in their ranks
Lionel Messi who has been started in relatively central positions this season could drift wide to his old position on the right-wing. With his first goal from open play in the bag, it is now time for the captain to put his foot on the gas.
Lionel Messi will be key tonight, as he always is. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
On the left-wing, Ousmane Dembele could get a well-deserved start. The Frenchman has impressed in the few minutes he has received this season. Undoubtedly, he will be a crucial part of the front line. At centre-forward, one would expect Antoine Griezmann to get a start after a positive yet mixed performance before the break.
With Phillipe Coutinho receiving the medical all-clear ahead of the game, the Brazilian could feature in the attacking midfield position. Given Pedri’s recent knock, it would be wise to provide him time to recuperate.
In the midfield, Sergio Busquets’ injury leaves no doubts as to who will feature on Saturday. Frenkie de Jong, on whom Xavi Hernandez recently had a lot of praises to shower, will undoubtedly start. Alongside him, Miralem Pjanic will almost certainly get the nod with Busquets out of the squad. It will be one of the best chances for the Bosnian to capitalise on and stake claim on a regular starting spot.
🗣 — Xavi: "De Jong is an extraordinary player. He isn't afraid to receive the ball in areas where it is difficult to turn. De Jong is De Jong, he has nothing to do with Iniesta, Busquets or me." pic.twitter.com/JhIkPbNuNb— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 19, 2020
Jordi Alba returns to action after a two-week hiatus and will be raring to go ahead of the herculean challenge. At right-back, however, Sergino Dest could get a well-deserved start. The former Ajax star’s technical ability along with his pace could be the key to overcoming Diego Simeone’s infamous low block. Koeman has trusted him against the other Madrid based side, and the outcome was very conspicuous.
At central defence, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet will hold onto their starting spots. With Ronald Araujo still not fit, there are no other first-team options on the platter too. Yet, the duo will need to come up with an inspired performance to stop the red-hot Joao Felix.
In goal undoubtedly, Marc Andre ter Stegen will be looking forward to his third start of the season since his return from surgery.
Barcelona vs Osasuna: Match Preview
Barcelona return to their cramped position in La Liga after a comfortable outing in the Champions League. The Catalans turn hosts this time around as they try to get back to winning ways in the league against Osasuna.
Date and kick-off time: Sunday 29 November 2020, 14:00 CET
Stadium: Camp Nou
Competition: La Liga, Matchday 11
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz
Barcelona are in a precarious state in their campaign this term. The Catalans have more points, more wins and a better goal difference in the Champions League than they have in La Liga. Worst possible start to the season in decades, with injuries piling up amid a congested fixture list, Ronald Koeman and the players have a lot to figure out. But, first, they have to get back to winning ways in the league.
Osasuna visit the Camp Nou with memories of their last contest, confirming Real Madrid’s title last season with a 1-2 win. The visitors are on the same points as Barça, albeit playing an extra game. Their recent form has been a worry as they have only one win in their last five games much similar to the Blaugranas.
Barcelona’s memories against Osasuna are not pleasant. (Photo via Imago)
While Los Rojillos do not have the fixture congestion as the hosts, they have mirrored their injury problems and long time absences. Chimy Avila, Brandon, David García, Adrián López are injured and out of the clash. Jonathan Calleri, Aridane Hernández, Juan Pérez, Lucas Torró are doubtful for the game.
Barça’s injury list has dented the team significantly. While Ansu Fati, Gerard Piqué and Sergi Roberto remain sidelined for months, there has been some improvement for the others. Both Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo have started the group training but will be a couple of weeks before they are match fit.
“Dest had some discomfort in his leg, but it is not a serious matter because he trained well today. If he is not well tomorrow, we will play someone else. We will not risk injuries.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-game Presser
Sergio Busquets is given the medical green light for this clash after recovering from a knock in International duty. Despite initial reports of an injury, Sergino Dest has made the squad list after having trained with the group before the game.
What to expect from Barcelona?
Ronald Koeman decided to field a second-string eleven against Dynamo Kyiv and rested his most-played players. Both Frenkie de Jong and Lionel Messi got a well-deserved rest after playing almost all games this season. So, both players will be fit and raring to go this weekend in La Liga. With the return of Coutinho, the front four seems to take shape in the absence of Ansu Fati.
“Hopefully tomorrow Messi and De Jong can offer their best because we need them.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-Game Presser
While there are options aplenty in the attack, the defence still seems shaky and not enough for top La Liga sides. Óscar Mingueza could continue to partner Clément Lenglet after impressing midweek. If Dest is not fit enough to start either Mingueza or de Jong will fit in at right-back. Carles Aleñá could get another run in the pivot with Miralem Pjanić if de Jong fills in at defence. Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba would be the only two regular starters in the backline.
Personnel issues aside, Barcelona have struggled tactically this season. While they breezed past Dynamo Kyiv in the previous game, they still provided the opponent with plenty of easy chances. The erratic pressing and loss of intensity after some point results in the opposition carving open the Barça defence with as little as a one-two pass. The manager should work on these and make sure the pressing works against tactically drilled La Liga sides.
What to expect from Osasuna?
Jagoba Arrasate’s Osasuna have been excellent in the top flight since getting promoted. After finishing an impressive 10th place last time, they are in the bottom half of the table this season, just below Barcelona. Injuries to crucial players have dented their fortunes this season, and their recent form is not helping the team.
When the last time the two sides met, the visitors won with only 20% possession, had more shots on target and scored a goal while a man down. Arrasate understandably would go with the same approach this time around as well. Whether the formation is 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, Osasuna will pack the middle to restrict the Blaugranas from breaking lines and going through the centre.
With a lack of possession and territory, Osasuna will look to go long moving the ball direct while counter-attacking. The visitors being aerially dominant, will often look to cross into the box. They do take a lot of shots confidently but are often prone to miss big chances. In this particular match, Osasuna’s game plan would work with ease if they hold their shape well in defence and successfully get into scoring positions.
Player to watch
Budimir has scored one of the only two goals Atletico Madrid have conceded this season. (Photo via Imago)
Osasuna have a lot of tall players ready to nod the crosses they put in. Ante Budimir is among the tallest of the lot, standing tall at 6’2″. The Croatian has played their last three games scoring one goal against Atletico Madrid past Jan Oblak. He is not afraid to take shots as he leads the team in shots per game.
One of the main reasons for his threat is the lack of height in the Barça defence. With Gerard Piqué out, the aerial presence at the back is severely low, and the Croat could take advantage of the situation.
Previous games: WLWWD
Dynamo Kyiv 0–4 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Atletico Madrid 1–0 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 5–2 Real Betis | La Liga
Barcelona 2–1 Dynamo Kyiv | UEFA Champions League
Deportivo Alavés 1–1 Barcelona | La Liga
Position in La Liga
11 points in 8 games
3 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses
15 Goals Scored, 9 Goals Conceded
+6 Goal Difference
Previous games: DLLWD
Osasuna 1–1 Huesca | La Liga
Sevilla 1–0 Osasuna | La Liga
Osasuna 1–3 Atlético Madrid | La Liga
Osasuna 1–0 Athletic Bilbao | La Liga
Eibar 0–0 Osasuna | La Liga
Position in La Liga
11 points in 9 games
3 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses
8 Goals Scored, 9 Goals Conceded
-1 Goal Difference
Barcelona 1–2 Osasuna | La Liga 19/20
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
- Barcelona are undefeated in 33 of their last 35 home matches (LaLiga).
- Osasuna have failed to score in their last 3 away matches (LaLiga).
- There have been under 2.5 goals scored in 8 of Osasuna’s last 10 away games (LaLiga).
- Osasuna were unbeaten against Barcelona last season.
Injured: Samuel Umtiti (knee), Gerard Pique (knee), Ansu Fati (knee), Sergi Roberto (hamstring), Ronald Araujo
Marc-André ter Stegen
Dest · Mingueza · Lenglet · Alba
Pjanic · de Jong
Dembele · Messi · Coutinho
Coach: Ronald Koeman
“If we maintain our rhythm with the ball, we will be very good. Sometimes we suddenly relax. The team needs to keep a constant level of intensity.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-Game Presser
Injured: Chimy Avila, Brandon, David García, Adrián López, Jonathan Calleri, Aridane Hernández, Juan Pérez, Lucas Torró
Roncaglia · David García · Raúl Navas
Nacho Vidal · Moncayola · Sanjurjo · Inigo Pérez · Jony
Budimir · Garcia
Coach: Jagoba Arrasate
Barcelona have been wayward in La Liga this season. They have performed against teams which like possession, but have struggled hard against low and medium blocks. Barça despite, having the ball, have been highly inefficient, moving it slow unable to break down the opponents. It would continue against Osasuna unless Ronald Koeman decides to do things differently.
Barça Universal prediction: 2–1 win for the Catalans