Blessed with bite and belief, Osasuna can shock La Liga this season

It’s mid-October with nine games played, and Osasuna are sitting in a Europa League spot, ahead of Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, Villarreal and Real Betis, among others.

A summer of wise recruitment, including the free signing of former Eibar captain Kike Garcia and permanent addition of Ante Budimir, added to retaining key players like Jon Moncayola, Sergio Herrera, Ruben Garcia who have formed a strong spine. 

But this is only the beginning. El Sadar was full for the first time against Rayo Vallecano and there can be little doubt that the support of fans helped Manu Sanchez to stretch out his leg to prod home a 91st minute winner and could once again become a fortress.

Between 2017 and 2019, they went 31 games without defeat on home turf, and in a revamped and increased stadium, Osasuna will be looking to make El Sadar a tough place to go once again.

The next few weeks will prove pivotal. After that tie with Granada, Osasuna will face Real Madrid, Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid in a killer three weeks. You have to go back to February 2014 to find the last time that Osasuna beat any of these four sides in La Liga action.

It would be normal for Osasuna to come back down to earth with a bump. Only Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid have exceeded their expected points (a calculation made with xG), by more than Osasuna, who would expect 14.23 but have amassed 17 to date. Even so, their expected points are still the fifth highest in La Liga, and that reflects their belief. 

With Jagoba Arrasate’s side, you can never rule them out. The win at Estadio de la Ceramica was Osasuna’s third consecutive victory with a winning goal arriving in the 87th minute or later.

Of Osasuna’s 17 points, eight have come in the final moments of games. Maintaining those fitness levels as games come thick and fast and Arrasate’s need to rotate increases will be a challenge.

Los Rojillos can be optimistic. Victory over Villarreal is the strongest statement yet that Osasuna can mix it with La Liga’s big boys and have provided a major confidence boost.

Turning that confidence into firm foundations is what is required to avoid collapses like those against Valencia and Real Betis. That will be essential. Osasuna’s game plan of holding tight defensively will be more of a challenge against the strongest sides in La Liga, but they have the firepower to compete.

This impressive early form from Osasuna may still turn out to be a flash in the pan. But with each season, they take a step up and improve. Even if their upcoming fixtures see Osasuna’s European hopes derailed, it is an improvement on last season. And it’s hard to think that a side with this much belief will go down easily.

Tags Osasuna