La Liga decided to make everybody wake up early to watch Barcelona this weekend. Unless you live in Asia (lucky people) everyone has to be up in the beginning hours of a Saturday to see the Blaugrana visit Osasuna searching for three vital points.
After a draw in El Clásico last weekend, the Catalan giants are now six points behind Real Madrid and cannot afford any more slip-ups against lower opposition. There have been lots of those this season, but they must stop if Barça will have any real chance of catching up to Los Blancos and winning a third consecutive league title.
Osasuna are a tricky team, and even though they're at the bottom of the table, they can be a tough side to beat at home, and playing in Pamplona has never been easy for Barça. It could be very easy on Saturday given the terrible record of Los Rojillos this season, but they need to be at their best.
Perhaps it helps that Luis Enrique plans to play his strongest possible side. Having rested a lot of his heavy-minute players against Borussia Mönchengladbach and probably playing a lot of reserves and youngsters in the unnecessary friendly in Qatar coming up on Tuesday, Lucho will go all out and try to make a statement in Osasuna by having the Gala XI starting.
Marc-André ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suárez were all rested in the Champions League group stage finale, and it'd be insane if Enrique didn't play all of them in Osasuna. They all would hate to be on the bench in consecutive matches, and it makes no sense to do that anyway.
That's seven starters confirmed, and if you add Lionel Messi and Arda Turan, who will complete the attack, we only need to sort out two final spots in the lineup. Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti battle for a spot alongside Piqué, and Masche is likely to win that battle. He's in very good form again, and he had three full days to recover after playing Gladbach.
The final spot is in midfield, and there are a lot of possibilities. André Gomes, Denis Suarez and Rafinha Alcântara all have good chances to start, and all three deserve it (especially Denis), but Andrés Iniesta is bulding up his fitness after returning from injury, and after a great 60-minute performance against Gladbach, the captain will probably start again and play for another 60-70 minutes.
So this is the most likely starting XI for Saturday: