Barcelona’s faint hopes of a third consecutive La Liga title continue with the visit of Osasuna to the Camp Nou on Thursday night.
The Catalan giants trail league leaders Real Madrid by four points with just two games of this elongated season to play with the title challenge out of their hands.
Osasuna’s first season back in La Liga since 2017 has seen the club avoid the relegation scrap, spending almost the entirety of the campaign oscillating around mid-table – they go into Thursday’s clash sitting comfortably in 11th place.
When Is Kick Off? Thursday 14 July
What Time Is Kick Off? 20:00 (BST)
Where Is it Played? Camp Nou
TV Channel/Live Stream? fuboTV (US)
Along with the long-term absentee Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona could be without several first-team players for this midweek clash. Antoine Griezmann was substituted at half-time during their last outing against Real Valladolid with ‘discomfort in his quadriceps’ while Arthur missed the game after a bout of tonsillitis.
Samuel Umtiti has missed the last three games with a knee injury but Frenkie de Jong could return after being sidelined since June with a calf problem.
This match comes too soon for Osasuna’s star forward Ezequiel ‘Chimy’ Ávila to play his first game since January while fellow attacker Brandon will also miss out in midweek. Rubén García, Robert Ibáñez and Marc Cardona are all doubts.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Busquets, Roberto; Puig; Messi Suarez
Osasuna: Herrera; Roncaglia, Hernandez, Garcia, Estupinan; Torres, Brasanac, Oier, Perez; Gallego, Lopez
As the season restarted after the coronavirus-induced hiatus, Barcelona were top of the table and boosted by the return of Luis Suarez. Nine games into the campaign’s addendum and they are yet to lose but three draws have seen Real Madrid replace the Catalans at the top.
While there has been suggestions that Quique Setien’s future as the club’s manager is in question, Barcelona have delivered three consecutive victories as the 61-year-old ditched the tried and tested 4-3-3 for an experimental 4-3-1-2 in recent weeks.
When Osasuna shipped five unanswered goals to an Atlético Madrid side not exactly famed for scoring in vast quantities in their second game since the restart, some feared the worst for the Pamplona team. Especially given how much they thrive off their usually boisterous crowd. However, they go into Thursday’s fixture with four wins from their last six games, safely ensconced in mid-table.
Here’s how each side has fared in their last five outings.
Real Valladolid 0-1 Barcelona (11/07)
Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol (08/07)
Villarreal 1-4 Barcelona (05/07)
Barcelona 2-2 Atlético Madrid (30/06)
Celta Vigo 2-2 Barcelona (27/06)
Osasuna 2-1 Celta Vigo (11/07)
Real Betis 3-0 Osasuna (08/07)
Barcelona 0-0 Getafe (05/07)
Eibar 0-2 Osasuna (02/07)
Osasuna 2-1 Leganés (27/06)
With the title race all but decided, Barcelona can enjoy their last home league game of the season free of pressure. These final few outings are effectively preparation for the long-awaited Champions League round of 16, second leg against Napoli at the start of August as Setien deciphers his best lineup and system for the crucial European tie.
Osasuna harbour the less lofty ambitions of a top half finish for the first time in La Liga since 2012.
Barcelona’s meagre record on the road has been one of several reasons behind their faltering title bid but the club’s home form has been nothing short of superb. In 18 league games, only Real Madrid and neighbours Atlético have escaped the Camp Nou with a point and Osasuna don’t look as though they will join that select list.
Prediction: Barcelona 2-0 Osasuna