Just two games to go in La Liga before Barça turn towards the daunting Champions League. With so much still to come and not much to play for in the league, coach Quique Setién will be looking to rest some major players. What should the Barcelona line-up be against Osasuna to get the best of both worlds?
The last game of the league season at the Camp Nou awaits on Thursday night. An emotional affair for the likes of Arthur Melo, who will get to trot on the luscious grasses of the legendary ground one last time, unless he plays against Napoli in the Champions League.
Osasuna, the visitors have had an impressive run after their recent promotion. They sit 11th in the league standings, and every culé remembers distinctly how they made Barcelona suffer at the El Sadar stadium. That vision of Chimy Ávila and Roberto Torres tormenting the Catalan defence is an unforgettable memory as the game ended in a 2–2 draw.
“He will play if it’s essential or absolutely necessary”
on Arthur Melo
For this penultimate clash in La Liga, coach Quique Setién has some major changes in the squad. Antoine Griezmann misses out with an injury to his quadriceps. Meanwhile, midfielder Frenkie de Jong finally received his medical greenlight, and Arthur too has recovered from tonsillitis. After his one game of suspension, Ansu Fati too is available once again for selection. With such tricky opponents staring the blaugranas in the eyes, this is how Barcelona should line-up against Osasuna:
Marc-André ter Stegen
Marc-André ter Stegen was once again the star of the night at the José Zorilla, denying a late push by Real Valladolid to secure all three points for Barcelona on the weekend. With that result, the German reached 100 clean sheets with the Catalan giants. He will want to keep things going in the same direction, as he is an unquestionable starter.
Gerard Piqué deserves just as much credit as Ter Stegen for the win against Valladolid. With 11 clearances, two interceptions, two tackles, and 97% pass accuracy, he had one of his most stellar games of the season. The number 3 has been sensational for Barcelona on most nights this season, still finds himself heavily scrutinised because of his sky-high standards. Setién will be counting on him once again.
While several regular starters need rest, the fatigue has been less obvious in Gerard Piqué, who has been performing superbly lately and should have sufficient rest in the next league match and in the three weeks before the return of the Champions League | Photo by Imago
Exactly two years after being presented as a Barcelona player, Clément Lenglet is one of the most vital players in this team. It is absolutely impossible to imagine the defence without the Frenchman in it at the moment. His presence of mins, positioning and coolness are invaluable. With the Champions League coming up, Setién will want to keep him match ready.
Nélson Semedo found himself in a new role against Valladolid. Having been deployed to play the role of a wing-back whilst managing his usual duties, he shone under pressure. The Portuguese full-back was always threatening to make dangerous runs and create chances. On another night, he would have finished with a goal and assist. The coach will look to make the most of his recent confidence.
Jordi Alba started the resumption of football in his best form but has looked slightly off in the last few fixtures. Defensively he has been on point but hasn’t looked particularly sharp upfront. Undoubtedly, he will be looking to make amends tonight, despite Junior Firpo being available to come in at left-back too.
The heart and soul of the Barcelona team, Sergio Busquets’ importance can never be undermined. The new 4–4–2 diamond system has seen him pushed into a more defensive role. Despite not getting involved in the final third, he has played out his role to perfection time and time again. His genius is a necessity for Barça, especially to break down the lines of Osasuna’s defence. On his 32nd birthday, he will be looking to make a statement at the Camp Nou.
Frenkie de Jong
After exactly a month being out injured, Dutch prodigy Frenkie de Jong has made his way back into the team. The new system will undoubtedly suit him more, with his role being more central than in the traditional 4–3–3. After the recent rise of youngster Riqui Puig, De Jong has a point to prove to stay on top of the pecking order. Setién said in the pre-match conference that Frenkie is ready to start, and the manager will be counting on him to turn up on the night.
“He’s in a very good mood already, with his problem already forgotten. We’ll see if he plays at the start or during the game”
on Frenkie de Jong
Riqui Puig finally started against Valladolid after being looked over for two matches. In addition to increasing the tempo of the game and getting two shots on target, the starlet contributed defensively exceptionally too. One would expect that a midfield with Puig and De Jong is capable of great things. Certainly, it will be a major opportunity for Quique Setién to try out the combination ahead of the Champions League.
On a night when Barcelona created innumerable chances but lacked the finishing edge, it was Arturo Vidal that made the difference at the José Zorrilla. He has always provided an attacking edge to the azulgranas. With Lionel Messi in dire need of rest, he would be a good option for Setién to generate an offensive outlook.
“He has played more than 50 percent [of minutes] since we are here and is a footballer who transmits positivity, energy, and does things very well. He has already scored eight goals and he gives us a threat, and sometimes he also contributes with his quality. He is an important footballer, without a doubt”
on Arturo Vidal
It is no secret that Lionel Messi has looked unlike himself in front of goal off late. His finishing hasn’t been on the mark. More than that, his dribbling and conversion rate has also gone down. It would make sense for Setién to rest the Argentine for the game and use Ansu Fati’s pace and dribbling as an alternative. In addition to providing width, the 17-year-old is not afraid to have a go at goal. An invaluable option for the Cantabrian manager.
After an explosive start to his Barcelona career, Martin Braithwaite has slowed down due to inadequate chances. He will not be available to play in the Champions League, and it surely makes sense to use him now to provide rest to some crucial players. His pace and runs can provide freshness to the forward line. If played with Ansu Fati, the duo can terrorise Osasuna’s defence.
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.