Barcelona did not enjoy a happy homecoming after the defeat in the Copa del Rey. Taking on Villarreal at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, the Azulgranas fell to an embarrassing 5-3 defeat at home to record the third defeat of their league campaign.
They will look to turn around the same when they take on Osasuna at home later tonight. The Pamplona-based have always fought neck-to-neck with Barcelona in recent times, and turning around the losing streak will be far for easy for Xavi’s men.
Three of the last four times Barcelona and Osasuna have faced off, there has been a player sent off from the field. The statistic is only a testament to the passion both teams pour out on the field, and one can expect another high-voltage clash.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Osasuna.
Third time lucky?
Two consecutive defeats do not sit well against the name of a club of Barcelona’s stature. Yet, the Catalans have seen such a situation twice this season, with the latest being in their last two outings.
After their 4-2 redemption win over Real Betis, many thought Barcelona had found their mojo once more. However, the joy was short-lived.
San Mames saw Barcelona face an embarrassing night as they were publicly undone by Athletic Club in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey in a 4-2 defeat. They were outclassed on the night and never really looked close to winning.
The next game saw Barcelona mount a special comeback from 2-0 down to 3-2 up against Villarreal in a matter of 11 minutes. They then collapsed, conceding thrice in 18 minutes to lose the game by a 5-3 margin.
With two defeats in their last two games, Barcelona are up against the wall. There is not much room for error, for they are practically out of the title race already and every point dropped here on takes their chances closer to zero.
The Blaugranas may be destined to head towards a trophy-less season this time around, but a win over Osasuna is much-needed purely from a confidence and self-esteem point of view. Will they be third-time lucky or face a hat-trick of defeats?
Eyes on the players
Not many saw Xavi’s resignation coming. Facing the press after Barcelona’s defeat to Villarreal, the manager announced his decision to step down at the end of the season, while he lashed out at the media for the constant pressure and criticism in his latest presser.
Needless to say, Xavi’s declaration sent media into a frenzy and the Barça community into shock.
If reports from the media are to be believed, not even the dressing room expected Xavi to make such an announcement. Several players are said to have met with the manager and tried to change his mind to no avail.
As Frenkie de Jong, Jules Kounde, and Pedri have elucidated in recent times, a bulk of the onus for Barcelona’s poor results falls on the players’ shoulders and not the manager. Xavi taking the fall has not gone down well in the dressing room, and the players even met for dinner recently to discuss the same.
All eyes will be on the Catalan team on tonight just to see if they can mount any sort of a rejuvenated performance to ease the pressure on Xavi. A convincing win would go a long way in proving that the players were at fault for the slump and could potentially undo the ugly aftermath of the team’s previous defeat.
The latest blow
As revealed earlier today, Barcelona star Joao Felix suffered an injury in training today. Tests revealed a blow to his ankle, ruling him out for a month at least.
The Portuguese sensation has been in the spotlight in recent times for his inconsistent displays. He has scored crucial goals for the team all season including the winner against Real Betis, yet, has his equal share of dull nights.
His absence leaves Xavi with one attacker less to choose from, bringing a tempting option to the manager’s table.
The four-man midfield setup has worked well for Barcelona in recent times. Although Gavi’s placement as a false-winger was critical in the aforementioned dynamic, Xavi could still look to return to that formula with a tweaked setup.
Frenkie de Jong, Ilkay Gundogan, and Pedri provide the team with a very strong midfield on paper. Yet, the trio does not check all the boxes out of possession and falls short in terms of defensive output.
Come Wednesday, the coach could thus be tempted to deploy four midfielders against the Pamplona-based side. Marc Casado or Oriol Romeu could start in the base of midfield with Gundogan and De Jong serving as interiors.
Pedri, instead, can take the role of a false left-winger and join the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres in attack. Needless to say, resting Lamine Yamal on the night is the best way forward in light of his heavy workload in recent games.