Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Osasuna
Estadio El Sadar witnessed a special game between Barcelona and Osasuna earlier this season when the two sides met in La Liga. Just in the sixth minute, David Garcia blasted his side into a 1-0 lead, putting pressure on the visitors.
Just 30 minutes into the game, Robert Lewandowski was sent off, and as one would remember, faced a prolonged suspension. Down a goal and a man, many had written Barcelona off.
Xavi Hernandez’s side had other plans. Pedri fired an equaliser past Aitor Fernandez just three minutes after the break. In the 85th minute, an iconic Raphinha finish over the shot-stopper gave ten-man Barcelona all three points.
Expect no less entertainment when the two sides face off at Spotify Camp Nou tonight. Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Osasuna.
1. The story of what should have been
Turning the clock back by thirty days, Barcelona and Osasuna were in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey. One leg had been played, and two teams held the advantage at the midway stage of the final four.
Barcelona had taken down Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in a game that ended narrowly in their favour. The 1-0 scoreline had them in the driver’s seat, especially given their recent Clasico record and home advantage.
On the other side of the draw, Osasuna took down Athletic Club by the same scoreline in the first leg. Looking ahead to the second half of the tie, a cup final between Barcelona and Osasuna seemed likely.
As fortune has it, the Pamplona-based side progressed to the final with a 1-1 draw in the second leg. However, Xavi Hernandez’s men fell to an embarrassing 4-0 defeat in front of their own fans and saw their cup hopes crushed.
When Barcelona and Osasuna face off on Tuesday, it is seemingly impossible to turn a blind eye to the fact that the same fixture next week could have been the Copa del Rey final. The schedule would then have been poetic, with both teams getting a taste of each other in La Liga before the crucial fixture in the cup.
2. Continue the carnage
After a long period in neutral gear, Barcelona finally warmed and fired their engines against a helpless Real Betis at the weekend.
The Verdiblancos cannot be faulted for the poor showing considering that they played the game with ten, and even nine men at times. However, the 4-0 win will mean more to the Catalans than the circumstances suggest.
The weekend clash marked the end of Barcelona’s mental roadblock in many ways. For starters, players like Pedri and Frenkie de Jong returned to their imperial best and showed that they did not need long to warm their feet.
Robert Lewandowski was another player who looked lively and a constant threat for Barcelona. The Polish international dropped his best performance in months and reaffirmed that his connection with the midfield is crucial to his success.
Finally, the return of Andreas Christensen helped the Catalans return to their former selves. With the original back-four reunited, the team looked more comfortable than ever in their own half.
It would be borderline criminal if Barcelona did not follow up such a tremendous performance with a fitting game tonight. One last surge can seal the Blaugrana’s La Liga title for they just need seven more points to do so. A win over Osasuna would thus be defining.
3. The winger conundrum
Ousmane Dembele’s tremendous form in the first half of the season did not spare Raphinha many chances in Catalonia. The Brazilian’s first season at the club was seemingly going against how he would have desired, but matters soon flipped dramatically.
An injury to the French ace saw him ruled out for close to three months. Presented with his chance to grace the pedestal, Raphinha did not let go. His statistics in the league this season are impressive, especially considering that it is his first season at the club.
The 26-year-old has seven goals and six assists in La Liga this season in just 20 starts. Across all competitions, those numbers rise to 10 and 11 respectively. Further, he averages 1.7 key passes per game and has created 14 big chances.
At this point, Raphinha is an undisputed starter for Xavi. Dembele’s return, however, placed the manager in a conundrum.
Both wingers are best placed on the right wing and show a drop in quality if flipped to the left side. Having both players at his disposal, will the manager opt to start both in a different formation or start one on the bench as an impact player? If so, who? There are questions aplenty for Xavi to answer tonight.