Many expected Barcelona to dish out a clinic and record a dominant win after Xavi’s painful announcement last week. Yet, their game against Osasuna was far from that.
The Catalans were dominant against Osasuna but did not have much end product to show for it. The first half ended scoreless, and it was only a goal from substitute Vitor Roque that gave them the lead on the night.
Osasuna were soon reduced to ten men, but that did not dampen their spirit in any way. The game did not ease for the Catalans in any way, as they were forced to maintain their guard until the final whistle.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Barcelona 1-0 Osasuna.
A rare clean sheet
Clean sheets have been difficult to come by at Barcelona this season. The Catalans were the kings of clean sheets last season, but their record this season has been absolutely horrendous.
Ahead of kickoff on Wednesday, the Blaugranas were without a clean sheet in their last five games. In the bigger picture, they had maintained just four clean sheets in their last 21 games across all competitions.
The aforementioned statistic puts into perspective how rare a clean sheet has become for Xavi’s men. The defence have been in shambles with all the centre-backs experiencing a slump in form.
Inaki Pena’s sub-par performances have only aggravated the situation, for the Spaniard has not been a convincing replacement for Marc Andre Ter Stegen by any means.
The clean sheet against Osasuna, thus, is worth its weight in gold. Despite being a man down, the visitors pushed voraciously in attack towards the end and demanded a gargantuan effort from the Catalans defence.
To come out having not conceded, thus, will give the team some much-needed confidence.
Fermin’s got talent
Having lost Joao Felix to an injury in training, Xavi deployed Ferran Torres on the left wing last night. Just five minutes into the game, however, the Spaniard was forced off the field in tears with a hamstring injury.
Pushed back against the wall, Xavi opted to change the formation at the time and brought on a fourth midfielder in place of the winger. The chosen one was the latest member of the first team – Fermin Lopez.
The La Masia graduate came on in the sixth minute and completely changed the texture of Barcelona’s game. His energy added a spark in the Catalan attack and he constantly attempted to get into scoring positions.
Lopez’s runs behind the defence and between the lines constantly caught the Pamplona-based side’s defence off guard and gave rise to so many of their problems on the night. Barcelona’s attacks suddenly boasted of more spice, and Lopez himself got into good scoring positions on a couple of occasions.
The 20-year-old does not boast of much trickery in his arsenal and is a more direct outlet in terms of style of play. Yet, his tenacity and attacking genius made him a game-changer, and not for the first time.
Last night’s clash, if anything, was a reminder to the management as to why Lopez can be a regular match-winner for Barcelona and will serve as the basis for more regular involvement in the future.
The first of many
Playing at Barcelona is one of the harshest environments a player can face. Given the club’s stature, anything short of instant success is taken with a pinch of salt and the criticism is unforgiving.
Vitor Roque arrived in Barcelona earlier this month as one of Brazil’s brightest talents. He was awarded his debut against Las Palmas in the first week of January and had made just five appearances for the club ahead of last night’s clash.
Yet, he was already under severe pressure. Having missed a couple of chances in his opening games, the player was unfairly at the receiving end of harsh words from the media.
Xavi called on Roque at the hour mark last night, replacing Fermin Lopez and switching to a two-striker setup. As it turns out, it was a big night for Barcelona’s new signing.
Less than a minute after coming on, Roque found himself at the end of Joao Cancelo’s perfect delivery into the centre. With a well-timed leap, he headed the ball past Aitor Fernandez to open the scoring and record his first goal in the Blaugrana colours.
His night got better when he appeared to assist Barcelona’s second goal. Unfortunately, it was ruled out for offside but his mere involvement showed that he is much more than just a striker.
In his short cameo, Roque demonstrated a good understanding of position and time and constantly looked to make runs behind the defence. He will be at the club for years to come and will be a regular goalscorer, one hopes. Yesterday’s goal, in that sense, could be the first of many to come.