CA Osasuna (5th, 23pts) vs FC Barcelona (1st, 34pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Monday
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 14
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde, Sergi Roberto, Franck Kessie, Memphis Depay (out)
Osasuna Outs & Doubts: Ez Abde (out), Kike Saverio (doubt)
Date/Time: Tuesday, November 8, 2022, 9.30pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8.30pm GMT (UK), 3.30pm ET, 12.30pm PT (USA), 2am IST (India, Wednesday)
Venue: Estadio El Sadar, Pamplona, Spain
Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano
VAR: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), TSN 5 (Canada), Viaplay Sports 1, ITV 4 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
Following a high-level performance and a very important win over Almería at the weekend, Barcelona return to La Liga action and take the field for the last time before the hiatus for the World Cup as they travel to beautiful Pamplona to take on Osasuna at El Sadar on Tuesday night.
Barça get a few extra days off as they don’t need to be involved in the weekend’s Copa del Rey action, so after this we won’t see the Blaugrana in action for seven whole weeks. This has been a strange start to the season, with so much to celebrate in domestic action but another embarrassing European campaign that resulted in a high-profile Europa League Playoff matchup against Manchester United next February which will once again test Barça’s ability to compete in continental play.
But there will be a whole lot of football to be played until then, and Barça’s sole focus will be on continuing their dominance in La Liga. And thanks to Rayo Vallecano’s incredible win over Real Madrid on Monday, Barça have been given sole possession and first place and could increase their lead at the top to five points with a win over Osasuna and make a huge statement in the final game before the break.
Expecting three points against Osasuna is realistic. Expecting three points to come easy fails to account for just how good Tuesday’s opponents have been this season. Every year there is a team that makes a hugely surprising start to the campaign in La Liga and shows up in the European places to the shock of everyone involved, and Osasuna is that team this season.
These surprise teams usually lose their momentum as the lack of squad depth is tested with the normal ups and downs of a demanding season, but they are a brutal opponent as long as they stay hot. And this Osasuna team is very hot as of late, unbeaten in four straight with three wins that catapulted them to fifth in the table.
The numbers show they are not a fluke either: the Expected Goals stat shows that Osasuna have the fourth-best defense in the division and the seventh-best attack, proving they are a sound, well-coached football team that has a clear identity and can cause anyone a lot of trouble right now.
They are at their best and most comfortable when they get to sit back and hit superior teams on the counter, using quick passes and a whole lot of speed up front to create big chances. They are also dangerous on set pieces, which means they are pretty much the antidote to a high-scoring, high-flying Barça side.
The atmosphere at El Sadar is always incredible and it will be even better given the opposition and the home team’s current form. Make no mistake about it: anyone expecting a dominant win from Barça hasn’t paid attention to Osasuna and is in for a huge surprise.
Xavi Hernández seems to have found the right formula against Almería, and the Blaugrana must play with the same level of intensity and creativity to beat a much better opponent this time.
It’s worth saying it again because it’s true: Osasuna are a really good football team and Barça mut prepare for what might just be the toughest 90 minutes of their season so far.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Balde, Christensen, Eric, Alba; De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Ferran
Osasuna (4-2-3-1): Aitor; Pena, U. García, D. García, Cruz; Torró, Moncayola; Ávila, Oroz, Gómez; Budimir
Osasuna are legitimately good. It’s not a fluke. And they are a bad matchup for the Barça style. This will not be easy at all, and I wouldn’t be surprised with a draw or maybe worse in this one. But I’ll choose to stay positive: 2-1 to the good guys.