Barcelona are two games away from their first trophy of the season and have made the long trip to Saudi Arabia for this year’s edition of the Spanish Super Cup, with the Blaugrana facing last season’s Copa del Rey runners-up Osasuna in Thursday’s semi-final looking to advance for Sunday’s title match against either Real Madrid or Atlético Madrid.
The Blaugrana come into this one after a hard-fought battle in their Cup debut away to Barbastro, and a poor performance against a fourth tier side raised even more concerns about the Catalans as they enter the home stretch of the season.
A decisive win against Osasuna will help increase the team’s confidence and give them a chance to defend their Supercopa crown, but Osasuna always cause Barça problems and will no doubt give their all for a rare shot at a trophy.
Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Thursday’s battle.
Last year’s Supercopa brings good memories to Barça fans. It was that competition that helped Xavi find his favorite XI and the tactics that made the Blaugrana play some sublime football during a two-month stretch in January and February that included a sensational victory in El Clásico in the Super Cup Final.
And a big part of that great stretch of football was the ‘BACK’ quartet, with Jules Kounde, Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen and Alejandro Balde developing great chemistry with each other and helping Barça have a fortress at the back that built the foundation for what was a very competitive team last season.
With João Cancelo not yet cleared to return from his knee injury, it is very likely that we’ll see the ‘BACK’ quartet back for this one. Cancelo’s presence has made it hard for Xavi to consistently use his favorite defensive lineup from last season, but the Portuguese’s likely absence will give the coach a chance to revisit a group that was so successful in the first six months of 2023.
Pedri’s return to training is a big boost for Barça but the magician is not yet ready to come back to the lineup and will probably miss the Supercopa altogether, so Xavi will once again have to rely on a midfield combination that has played very little but done quite well.
Sergi Roberto’s return to prominence with all the injuries has been a positive for the team, with the captain showing plenty of passion and playing at a solid level. He has also been a good fit with Frenkie de Jong and Ilkay Gündogan who have been very good for most of the season, and these three could become a productive combination if given more time together.
Barça’s attack continued to show the usual problems with finishing and decision-making against Barbastro, with their inability to convert chances in the first half making the game a lot harder than it should have been.
Robert Lewandowski started on the bench and needed to come on to score what turned out to be the winning goal from the penalty spot, and the Pole will return to the starting XI to lead the line against Osasuna. Ferran Torres and Raphinha will retain their spots on the wings, but Lamine Yamal could be the surprise name in the lineup as he’s once again available after serving a suspension at the weekend.
Possible XI: Peña; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; Roberto, De Jong, Gündogan; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Osasuna? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!