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Three talking points ahead of Osasuna vs Barcelona | La Liga



Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

With two wins and a draw in the bag from their opening three fixtures, Barcelona sit alongside the likes of Atletico Madrid, Girona, and Cadiz on seven points in La Liga.

A win on Matchday four would help them continue their journey up the leaderboard. Yet, it will be far from easy as they take on Jagoba Arrasate’s Osasuna away from home.

It will be a night of returns for Barcelona at El Sadar as they welcome Raphinha back into the squad after serving his two-game suspension.

Furthermore, manager Xavi Hernandez will be back on the sidelines to personally oversee the game after serving his own two-match touchline ban.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Osasuna vs Barcelona on Sunday night.

Menace down both flanks

The importance of full-backs in the modern game cannot be understated. With wingers occupying more central roles, especially in Xavi Hernandez’s system at Barcelona, the full-backs serve as key forces in the final third.

While the attacking output is critical for any full-back, one must not forget their primary responsibility of closing down the flanks defensively. Notably, it was on that tactical aspect that the Catalans suffered at the hands of Villarreal last weekend.

With Alejandro Balde and Ronald Araujo injured, Xavi opted to start Marcos Alonso and Sergi Roberto at left and right-back respectively. Both players struggled with the defensive aspect of the game, leading to the Yellow Submarines putting three goals past them.

Ahead of the Blaugranas’ fourth league game of the season, the manager has his best options at his disposal.

For starters, Balde is expected to return to the starting lineup after recovering from his discomfort. The youngster has been a dynamite on the left wing for Barcelona and is also growing into a reliable asset defensively with every passing day.

At right-back, one can expect deadline-day signing Joao Cancelo to make his first start. The Portuguese star is the end product of Barcelona’s long and painful hunt for a new right-back and has been included in the squad to face Osasuna.

The Joao factor

The Joaos are here. (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

Joao Cancelo arrived late on deadline day as Barcelona’s latest defensive signing. However, he was not the only player named Joao to sign for Barcelona last night.

Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix also completed a late move to Catalonia on Friday night and has also been included in the squad travelling to El Sadar.

Xavi expressed his optimism over Felix’s profile during his pre-game press conference, and the player could well make his debut tomorrow. The question that now confronts the manager is where to deploy the Portuguese winger.

Indeed, Felix is capable of playing anywhere in the forward line, but Xavi must find the right niche for him on the field. After all, the youngster is in dire need of confidence.

The manager thus has big decisions to make. With Roberto Lewandowski and either Lamine Yamal or Raphinha having assured spots in the starting lineup, he must either sacrifice his fourth midfielder for Felix or start the new signing on the bench.

Moreover, one must remember that the Atleti star is best placed behind a striker and not on the wing. A 3-5-2 formation, thus, cannot be ruled out with Lewy and Felix taking charge in attack.

El Sadar

El Sadar is one of those stadiums in Spain where Barcelona have not fared well in recent years.

The Catalans have not lost at the stadium since the 3-2 defeat to Osasuna in February 2012. Yet, they boast of a mixed record at the venue.

Peculiarly, Barcelona have alternated between wins and draws in recent seasons at El Sadar. They have drawn thrice in their past six meetings with the Pamplona-based side.

Last season, Barcelona found themselves a goal and a man down half an hour into the game. Robert Lewandowski’s sending-off left Barcelona with little hope in the game.

Yet, they scored twice Osasuna in the second half with ten men to seal the win and take home all three points. In the end, it was Raphinha who scored the winner for the Blaugranas on the night.

Heading into the tricky venue once more, Xavi will look to break the curse of alternate wins and draws.

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