CA Osasuna (9th, 6pts) vs FC Barcelona (4th, 7pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2023-24 La Liga, Matchday 4
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ronald Araujo, Pedri (out)
Osasuna Outs & Doubts: Darko Brasanac (out)
Date/Time: Sunday, September 3, 2023, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: El Sadar, Pamplona, Spain
Referee: Miguel Ángel Ortiz Arias
VAR: Guillermo Cuadra Fernández
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Viaplay Sports 1 (UK), Not Available (Spain, Canada), others
Following a dramatic win over Villarreal and an even more dramatic Transfer Deadline Day, Barcelona return to action for the final La Liga game before the first international break of the season as the defending champions travel to Pamplona to face Osasuna at El Sadar on Sunday Night Fútbol.
Barça come into this one after a crazy summer and a wild end to the window, with two marquee loan signings and a few head-scratching departures that have transformed the squad and made the next few weeks after the international break absolutely fascinating as we’ll watch Xavi Hernández try to turn this unique squad into a cohesive unit that can compete on all fronts this season.
The arrival of João Cancelo is the biggest signing as it gives Barça a world-class option at right-back for the first time in forever, and his versatility also allows Xavi to shapeshift his team depending on the opponent and the situation.
João Félix arrives under severe skepticism and raises plenty of doubt about his ability to fit the system and contribute in a meaningful way considering just how poorly he has played in recent times, but he is realizing a childhood dream and will give his all for the shirt so his commitment to the cause could help him answer a lot of the questions Barça fans have.
As excited and fascinated as we are about the two Joãos, however, it would be unfair to expect them to make any sort of impact on Sunday. Both are unlikely to start and might come on late in the second half after not playing at all for their previous teams for virtually all of preseason and the first official games of the campaign, so we can only truly begin to analyze their fit and impact after the break.
So Sunday’s match is about those who won the game against Villarreal last week, and what a crazy game it was. Barça’s defense was in shambles for 60 minutes but the attacking performance was very encouraging for all 90 minutes, with four good goals and plenty of other big chances created with quick, inventive passing and aggressive wing play from the likes of Lamine Yamal and Ferran Torres.
Osasuna won’t be as open as Villarreal but won’t park the bus like Getafe or Cádiz, either. When playing in front of a spectacular home crowd at El Sadar they know how to create problems with timely high pressing on goal-kicks and other buildup moments, and even when they sit in a low block they remain aggressive and put plenty of pressure on the ball to force mistakes and create counter-attacking opportunities. It’s important to remember they made the Copa del Rey Final and finished seventh last season, so anyone expecting an easy Barça win just hasn’t been paying much attention to their opponents — or Barça.
The home team are coming off a painful European exit in midweek and are looking at Barça as a chance to regain their confidence by getting a big result at home, so the Blaugrana must be at it from the first minute. Real Madrid are yet to drop points and Barça must keep up pace, so winning on Sunday is the only alternative.
We can care about the Joãos later. It’s about winning this one, whatever it takes.
Barcelona (4-2-3-1): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; Romeu, De Jong; Yamal, Gündogan, Gavi; Lewandowski
Osasuna (4-2-3-1): Aitor; Areso, Catena, Unai, Mojica; Moncayola, Torró; García, Aimar, Gómez; Budimir
I’m always nervous about Osasuna away, but the good vibes created by Cancelo’s arrival and the excellent attacking performance from last week give me enough positivity to bet on the good guys again: 2-0 Barça.