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Barcelona underline title credentials with morale-boosting win at El Sadar

Superb victory

CA Osasuna v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Ion Alcoba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

With Real Madrid having surprisingly stumbled at Vallecas on Monday night, the stage was set at El Sadar for Barcelona to take the three points which would keep them top of La Liga until the turn of the year.

Playing three left-backs in his back four against one of the form teams in the Spanish top flight in Osasuna was therefore a strange selection from Xavi.

The team from Pamplona never make it easy for the Catalans when at home, so going a goal down early in proceedings was wholly predictable from Barca’s point of view.

It was just the fifth league goal that Barcelona had conceded since the start of the 2022/23 campaign, but the hunger and desire of the hosts to build on their lead was in stark contrast to the visitors who had to be content - at that stage - with the same old Xavi playbook.

Certain passages of play were efficient and pleasing on the eye, but there were far too many sloppy balls in the opening 45 from Barca.

CA Osasuna v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Ion Alcoba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Forward movement was considered and slow rather than natural and at pace, ensuring that any half chances remained just that.

Robert Lewandowski being man-marked by four defenders because the ball hadn’t been played to him quick enough was a perfect example of all that was missing from the Catalans.

The centre-forward didn’t get the chance to make his mark either after rightly earning a second yellow card and then a red. Stupid behaviour from a player that should know better.

A difficult assignment become almost impossible in that moment. A moment when Xavi needed to earn his managerial corn.

And earn it he did.

Barca were transformed after half-time, a break in play which saw Gerard Pique sent off in his final ever game for the club, without ever coming on. Typical Geri, making headlines to the end!

Within two minutes, Pedri’s fine finish had given Barca hope. The faintest glimmer it must be said, but still something to build on.

CA Osasuna v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Ion Alcoba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

If the visitors could hang in there and Xavi called his subs right, the platform was there for what appeared to be the most unlikely of wins.

Sergio Busquets remained an absolute disaster throughout the first half, but steadied the midfield ship in the second. It’s that experience which can’t be bought and undoubtedly sees him retain the confidence of his former team-mate when other options may seem preferable.

Xavi’s Achilles heel in most big-game situations to date has been an inability to affect proceedings, however, he has to take the credit for his substitutions and this win.

The right players on at the right time, and he was repaid with a smash and grab victory that could well end up going down as one of Barca’s best of the campaign.

Certainly, if the league trophy finds its way back to Camp Nou, the win at El Sadar will be looked upon as a very special result indeed.

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