Barcelona continue their chase of the La Liga title with their fourth game in 10 days when they welcome Osasuna to the Spotify Camp Nou on Tuesday evening.
The Blaugrana remain 11 points clear at the top of the table and will look to briefly extend that gap to 14 points before Real Madrid face a brutal trip away to Anoeta against Real Sociedad on the same day, and any result other than a win for Los Blancos will leave the Catalans just one more victory away from mathematically clinching the championship.
Osasuna have had a wonderful season and play one of the biggest games in their history against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey Final at the weekend, and are looking at the trip to Camp Nou as the perfect tune-up fight before going for the belt. Here’s how we think Barça will line up for Tuesday’s clash.
Xavi Hernández is in an interesting spot when it comes to team selection ahead of this one. On the one hand, this is the fourth game in 10 days and some players have been on the pitch for heavy minutes in recent weeks; on the other hand, Barça won’t play again until May 14th because there are no league matches on Cup Final weekend.
With nearly two weeks off after this one, will Xavi stick with his Gala XI or make a couple of changes to rest some bodies during a busy stretch? If he does decide to rest, the prime candidate for a night off is Ronald Araujo at the back. The Uruguayan has virtually not sat since rushing back from injury and would really benefit from the time off, and with Andreas Christensen returning there is a lot less anxiety about not having Araujo on the pitch.
If that’s the case, a couple of options open up: Eric García in Araujo’s place, or Jules Kounde moving to the middle alongside Christensen and Xavi revisiting a very interesting full-back duo from last season with Alejandro Balde at right-back and Jordi Alba at left-back. I want to have some fun, so I’ll speak Balde and Alba into existence.
Another player in desperate need of a rest is Gavi, who’s only 18 but not immune to exhaustion. With Pedri and Frenkie De Jong fully healthy again, a first half rest would do the youngster a world of good, making him available to come off the bench in the second half to inject his usual energy into proceedings.
If Gavi does get a rest, Pedri and Frenkie will play alongside Sergio Busquets in a classic three-man midfield, opening up a spot up front for a true attacker. But Xavi could opt for some continuity with his favorite four-midfielder system now that all the best players are available again, so it won’t be a shock to see Gavi starting again as a false left winger.
But if Gavi is indeed starting from the bench in this one, the front three would have an open spot on the left. That spot should go to Ansu Fati, who played very well off the bench against Real Betis and deserves a chance to start here.
Ousmane Dembélé returned at the weekend and is likely to make his first start in three months, and he could either replace Raphinha on the right or start alongside the Brazilian on the left if Xavi decides to bring Fati off the bench again.
Robert Lewandowski will lead the line as always, looking to score for the third straight game.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Balde, Kounde, Christensen, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, De Jong; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Fati (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!