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Saturday August 20 2016
2016-17 Season Preview: Osasuna

Osasuna’s ability to retain much of their promotion-winning squad and reliance on experience should see the Pamplona side safely through, writes Euan McTear.

Coach: Enrique Martin

Key signings: Fran Merida, Juan Rafael Fuentes, Oriol Riera

Key sales: Mikel Merino, Matej Pucko, Manuel Sanchez

Last season: Segunda playoff winners

This season (predicted finish): 16th

After just two seasons away, Osasuna are back in La Liga. In their first season down in La Segunda, they very nearly suffered another relegation, only for a couple of late last day goals to keep them in the division. Then last term, the team from Pamplona were fighting at the other end of the table and ultimately won promotion through the playoffs, defeating Catalan sides Gimnastic de Tarragona and Girona to earn their return ticket.

Although they finished behind fellow promoted sides Alaves and Leganes in the League table last year, in many ways Osasuna look stronger than both those sides for the upcoming season. The main reason their summer can be labelled a success is the fact that they have hardly lost any players from their promotion-winning squad. The loan deals of Matej Pucko and Luis Martins have come to an end, but neither was a starter last season anyway. Manuel Sanchez and Maikel Mesa also depart after their contracts expired, but they’ll similarly hardly be missed.

Besides those four, the only player to have left this past summer is Mikel Merino, a talented 20-year-old midfielder who managed to net seven goals for Los Rojillos in 2015-16. He moves to Borussia Dortmund and will be a loss, but the fact that Coach Enrique Martin has been able to make it to the start of the La Liga season with just one significant departure is very encouraging, especially because many members of his squad boast La Liga experience.

Looking at the players that Osasuna have brought in over the summer, it’s clear that La Liga experience is something Martin is actively seeking. Their summer signings Oriol Riera, Juan Rafael Fuentes, Jaime Romero and Fran Merida all have Spanish top-flight experience under their belts, while the club have also signed Fausto from second tier Alcorcon and Goran Causic, who has made almost 100 top flight appearances in the Serbian and Turkish Leagues.

With such an experienced squad, Osasuna have given themselves a good chance of avoiding relegation. They have the fifth-oldest squad in the division, with an average age of 27, so they are built for immediate success. They may need to look at bringing through some more youth in the coming seasons, but the goal for 2016-17 is simply to consolidate their place in the League, and they’ve gone about assembling a team of proven La Liga players.

Roared on by their boisterous support at El Sadar Stadium, which had the second-highest attendance behind Real Zaragoza’s La Romareda in the Segunda last campaign, there is no reason why Osasuna cannot gather up enough points to comfortably finish outside of the bottom three.  

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