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Barcelona vs Osasuna, La Liga: Team News, Match Preview

Barça look to rebound from a horrible defeat and begin a strong run of results in the league

FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

FC Barcelona (4th, 44pts) vs CA Osasuna (12th, 26pts)


Competition/Round: 2023-24 La Liga, Matchday 20

Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Marc-André ter Stegen, Gavi, Alejandro Balde, João Félix, Raphinha, Sergi Roberto, Marcos Alonso (out), Iñigo Martínez (doubt)

Osasuna Outs & Doubts: None

Date/Time: Wednesday, January 31, 2024, 7pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 6pm GMT (UK), 1pm ET, 10am PT (USA), 11.30pm IST (India)

Venue: Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, Montjuïc, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Referee: Jorge Figueroa Vázquez

VAR: Valentín Pizarro Gómez

How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), Viaplay Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Not Available (Spain, Canada), others

How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), DAZN (Spain), others


Following a devastating defeat at home to Villarreal to effectively end their hopes of back-to-back La Liga titles, Barcelona return to action for the ninth and final match of a crazy January schedule as the Blaugrana welcome Osasuna to the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Wednesday evening.

Barça come into this one having seen their title chances come to an end in wild fashion, in a game that made no sense from the moment it began and had absolutely everything: good football, bad defending, even worse refereeing and a late collapse in front of the home crowd that left Barça without any points and with plenty of questions.

Xavi Hernández then avoided a new round of speculation about his future by announcing he will be stepping down at the end of the season. It was a smart move by a man who controlled the message and basically guaranteed himself a job until the summer by making himself the selfless legend who decided to do what was best for the club he loves.

Xavi’s announcement was perfectly timed and makes sure he can’t get sacked mid-season, and the vast majority of fans will be on his side no matter what happens because of his decision. Now the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of the players, and based on their public reaction and the reports written in the last few days they are very much going to play the rest of the season for their coach.

This is what’s missing in the criticism by those who wanted Xavi gone: he is beloved by the dressing room, and players have never given up on his message despite the bad moments. The way they’ve rescued late results time and time again over the last two years proves their loyalty to their boss, and all of them now feel they are in some ways responsible for Xavi’s departure.

Much like Luis Enrique inspired his team to a strong finish in the league after a tough start and a Copa del Rey title when he announced his own departure in late January of his final season, Xavi hopes that his decision to leave gives the players the extra bit of motivation needed to find a way to get the job done in La Liga and perhaps have a miracle run in the Champions League.

Winning a trophy in the next four months is not the most realistic option, but these players will undoubtedly give their all for Xavi. They will continue to fight through injuries and will play to win until the very end, and Xavi might feel liberated himself and just try things that he normally wouldn’t if he was coaching for his job.

The Catalans have a month and a half of winnable league games and will be slight favorites in their Champions League Round of 16 against Napoli, so this dark cloud might be replaced by optimism and a sense of relief in six weeks’ time if Xavi’s announcement has the desired effect.

The immediate future brings Osasuna, who will be a tough opponent that Barça saw three weeks ago in the Spanish Super Cup semi-final, a game the Catalans won comfortably despite not playing at their very best. Osasuna don’t really allow teams to play great football, but the Blaugrana have a very recent memory of how to beat the side from Pamplona if they control the ball and take their chances.

I am weirdly excited to watch the next few games after Xavi’s announcement, and something tells me we’ll see a Barça team more united and putting whatever frustrations they might have to the side to focus on a strong finish to the season for themselves and their coach.

Let’s dance.


POSSIBLE LINEUPS

Barcelona (4-2-3-1): Peña; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Cancelo; Pedri, De Jong; Yamal, Gündogan, Ferran; Lewandowski

Osasuna (5-3-2): Herrera; Peña, García, Catena, Cruz, Mojica; Ibáñez, Muñoz, Gómez; García, Budimir


PREDICTION

Playing against Osasuna is always annoying, but I think Xavi’s announcement will unite the players and give at least an initial jolt of energy and commitment to win it for the boss: 2-0 to the good guys.

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