The second matchweek beckons as FC Barcelona visits CA Osasuna in Pamplona. The issue of the match seems to be regarding Barcelona’s newest acquisition, Alex Song. What other talking points can we expect from the match? Find out more after the jump.
Osasuna’s ground, Estadio El Sadar (formerly El Reyno de Navarra) holds a bad and fresh memory for FC Barcelona. Pep Guardiola’s side was beaten 3-2 courtesy of a brace from Dejan Lekic and a goal from Raúl García on a treacherous and icy pitch. The match was very scrappy and controversial as a Barça goal was cancelled while Osasuna managed to get on the board from a clear offside position. The loss meant the Catalan side had dropped a total of 16 points away from home, which morally and empirically devastated the team’s title hopes. It was also the last time Javier Mascherano was deployed as a defensive midfielder. For the rest of the season he flourished and grew in confidence playing as a center back.
Osasuna, last season’s seventh place holder, underwent a drastic change in players this season. The Navarre side brought in 10 players, mostly on free transfers, and offloaded 12 players including Javad Nekounam, Lekic and García, their most talismanic performers in the league last season. Manager Jose Luís Mendilibar will likely still play the same direct and physical style of football that produced mid-table results last season and a loss to Deportivo la Coruña last week.
Barcelona meanwhile bid farewell to Seydou Keita and Henrique but secured Alex Song and Jordi Alba on the transfer market. Barcelona still has another four players rising up from Barcelona B; namely Marc Bartra, Marc Muniesa, Martín Montoya, and Jonathan dos Santos. Cristian Tello and Sergi Roberto are still officially Barcelona B players as evidenced by their shirt numbers of 37 and 28, respectively.
With one eye on the Madrid match at the weekend, manager Tito Vilanova could be itching to use Alex Song right away this weekend. It might not be ideal to play him right away, even if he is used as a pivote, but things are looking that way. This match is a perfect chance to see Tito’s squad rotation and player resting policy. Hopefully we can see Cesc Fàbregas employed in midfield together with Song and Sergio Busquets as this will be give Xavi and Andrés Iniesta to rest after their great performances against Real Madrid.
In defense, things are looking very interesting. If Puyol is fit to play, I expect him to accompany Gerard Piqué with Marc Bartra coming on in the second half. Dani Alves and Jordi Alba will round up the back four formation. Victor Valdés will still play even though he made a costly error midweek against Madrid. Fortunately for the Barcelona number one, mistakes early in the season give the player time to develop their concentration and communication for the long road ahead.
At front, Messi will definitely play together with the in-form Pedro who has scored in two consecutive matches. David Villa can round up the front three to give some rest to Alexis Sanchez who will probably be played against Madrid midweek. Tello has featured in all Barcelona’s matches this season and it will be interesting to see if he will be brought on again in the second half. If Tello proves to Tito he can step up, then Afellay will have to perform to assure Tito that he can still contribute to the team.
Looking to continue its unbeaten form so far this season, Barcelona will face a tough test in Estadio El Sadar.
|FC Barcelona||5 – 1||Real Sociedad|
|FC Barcelona||3 – 2||Real Madrid|
Villa and Fontas are already given some football time, so things are looking well for those two. Thiago is back to training but has not yet been given medical clearance. Isaac Cuenca, Muniesa and Èric Abidal continue to be on the long-term absentee list.
Predicted Starting XI: Valdés; Alves,Puyol, Piqué, Alba; Busquets, Song, Fàbregas; Pedro, Messi, Villa
Raul García and Nekounam left a huge void for Osasuna, but the Pamplona side looks to bounce back from last week’s 2-0 loss.
|Deportivo||2 – 0||Osasuna|
Predicted Starting XI: Fernandez; Flano, Arribas, Damià, Marc Bertrán; Loe, Puñal, Sisi, Martinez, Cejudo; Nino, Joseba Llorente
Mendilibar called the same exact 18 player squad he had last week, so Anthony Annan will not take the pitch. Osasuna’s other new signing Nano and Emiliano Armenteros will miss out through injury.
Will people start growing their grass long again this season? Last season Barcelona lost a total of 17 points away from home. The blaugrana is most comfortable playing in a field where balls can move freely in a controlled environment, but it needs to adapt to its opponents’ tactics and letting their grass grow long is one of them.
Expect Barcelona to find their rhythm gradually and the home side to surrender possession while placing their players wide to receive long balls.
Osasuna 0 – 2 FC Barcelona
PHOTO CREDIT: David Ramos/Getty Images