Off the back of the disappointing Clásico, today’s match up against an Osasuna team who have won just one of their last 14 home league games was Barcelona’s chance to end their three match drawing streak in La Liga and begin the catch up on Real Madrid, who were six points ahead of Barça at the start of the weekend.
Barça started the game with a different looking starting 11 with Neymar suspended after picking up five yellow cards, and Andrés Iniesta fit enough to start. André Gomes took Ivan Rakitić’s place in the starting line-up, and Arda Turan was pushed onto the wing, where he looks a lot more comfortable.
It became clear at the beginning of the game that it would be a matter of when Barça would unlock the Osasuna defence rather than if. Osasuna sat back while Barcelona circulated the ball well, helped by Samuel Umtiti’s return to the back-four and Iniesta giving Sergio Busquets the support that he has needed during the Illusionista’s absence.
Luis Enrique’s side largely dominated the play, with a few breaks for Osasuna that barely troubled Marc-André Ter Stegen, but Barça weren’t able to break the deadlock despite good chances for Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, who struck the post after a good turn.
The second half began just how it ended with Barcelona dominating the ball and the goal felt very close.
After jinking past former Barça man Oriol Riera, Busquets played a pass to Messi, who played a trademark diagonal through ball to Jordi Alba, the full-back played a square pass to an open Suárez who finished off a classic Barcelona move just before the 60 minute mark.
Before the first goal, Barça were in danger regretting their earlier missed chances, but after Suárez tapped in the first the confidence grew in front of goal and with 72 minutes gone a wonderful 15-pass move which started from the back with Gerard Piqué and ended with Messi bouncing the ball over Osasuna ‘keeper Nauzet Pérez. Only two Barça players, Ter Stegen and Suárez, didn’t touch the ball during this brilliant move.
Messi ended the game fittingly with a truly stunning goal. The Argentinian skipped past three Osasuna players, putting one on his arse, faked to shoot, putting another player on the floor, and dispatched a shot to Nauzet’s left.
The game ended with Barça putting three past an Osasuna side who are now bottom of La Liga, in a match which could have ended with four or five goals added onto the scoreline. Messi continued to look his magical self, after an almost flawless Clásico performance, Busquets added another top performance, Umtiti slotted back into the back-four like he never left, and Iniesta’s return gave Barça the midfield balance they have ever-so needed.
With the core of the squad back, fit and playing well, Barça should be confident that they can complete the remontada and beat Real Madrid to the Liga title, and continue to battle for the Copa del Rey and Champions League.
Next up for the blaugrana is a very questionable mid-season trip to Qatar to play Al-Ahli, before a Catalan derby at the Camp Nou next weekend.