CA Osasuna (11th, 21pts) vs FC Barcelona (8th, 23pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2021-22 La Liga, Matchday 17
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Pedri, Memphis Depay, Jordi Alba, Martin Braithwaite, Sergi Roberto, Sergio Agüero, Dani Alves (out)
Osasuna Outs & Doubts: Jesús Areso (out), Juan Pérez (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, December 12, 2021, 4.15pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 3.15pm GMT (UK), 10.15am ET, 7.15am PT (USA), 8.45pm IST (India)
Venue: Estadio El Sadar, Pamplona, Spain
Referee: Juan Martínez Munuera
VAR: Jesús Gil Manzano
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA, Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), others
Following a bad defeat to Bayern Munich to seal their Champions League exit in midweek, Barcelona return to action in La Liga to try and pick up the pieces and move on as they travel to Pamplona to face Osasuna at El Sadar.
This has been a tough week for the Blaugrana with a very clear indication of where they are in Europe’s pecking order. This was always going to be a long-term project for Joan Laporta and Xavi Hernández, but the loss to Bayern showed they might be even further away from the continent’s elite than originally thought and we might have to endure quite a bit of pain on the road back to glory.
The rest of the season will have the Europa League, the Copa del Rey and the final two thirds of the La Liga campaign and getting results is always the ultimate goal, but it is also a time to seriously evaluate the squad and decide who stays and he goes to start the rebuild. Very few players should be safe and everyone must prove their worth, and Xavi cannot be afraid to make tough decisions over the next few weeks ahead of the January transfer window.
In the short-term, Barça cannot afford to lose ground in the Top 4 race. Qualifying for next season’s Champions League is the only realistic goal for the rest of the season, and the Catalans have dropped enough points already. Wins are crucial, and not winning against the likes of Osasuna is not an option.
Osasuna do have a solid team and recently held the high-flying, high-scoring leaders Real Madrid to a goalless draw at the Santiago Bernabéu and gave reigning champions Atlético Madrid all they could handle at the Wanda Metropolitano a few weeks ago, so it won’t be an easy task. All the injuries don’t help either, with Barça seriously understaffed in attack for this one.
But Osasuna haven’t won a game since October and are absolutely there for the taking, and three points will be huge for Barça’s morale. They can’t slip up again and players must take responsibility. Xavi has done enough good things in the early days to provide them with a solid platform to be better, so the easy out of blaming the coach doesn’t exist right now.
Three points and as good a performance as possible are a must.
Screw the dance. Let’s just win.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Araujo, Piqué, García, Dest; Nico, Busquets, F. De Jong; Dembélé, L. De Jong, Gavi
Osasuna (4-4-2): Herrera; Vidal, García, García, Sánchez; Barja, Torró, Brasanac, García; Avila, Budimir
I have absolutely no idea where Barça’s morale is after the defeat in Munich and Osasuna are solid enough to pull off the upset, but I’ll still bet on the good guys: 2-0 Barça.