Osasuna have a fight on their hands attempting to recover from their opening day defeat as Barcelona roll into town on Sunday.
Osasuna went down feebly at the hands of newly-promoted Deportivo on La Liga’s opening weekend, with an unconvincing performance from the entire team. Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar can take heart from the fact, though, that Barcelona have traditionally struggled in Pamplona, even dramatically losing 3-2 last season.
The Rojillos are expected to completely pack the middle of the park against the Catalan giants in a desperate bid to hold back their penetrating passing play. Joseba Llorente will be forced to play up top alone throughout, making it near impossible to see how they can pose a consistent threat. Playmaker Alvaro Cejudo will also have the responsibility of releasing attacks when possible.
Barcelona will have a mere one day of rest from their Super Cup first leg triumph against arch rivals Real Madrid. Having thrashed Real Sociedad by a score line of 5-1 in their opening fixture, the current Spanish Cup holders will be looking to continue from where they left off against Osasuna.
The Catalan’s tactician Tito Vilanova is expected to make use of an ample squad to reduce the effects of his side’s mid-week adventure. Midfield mastermind Xavi Hernandez will likely be rested, with Cesc Fabregas slotting in as Thiago Alcantara is doubtful through injury. David Villa will not start despite his return and goal at the weekend against Sociedad.
Both sides will be grateful the fixture has been arranged in August, as the Pamplona winter made their last clash almost impossible to play.
Keep an eye on: Jordi Alba (Barcelona): Having only played a bit-part in the Catalan outfit’s Super Cup victory, Alba will be out to impress in this only his second League start for the club. The 23-year-old will be ready to pick up where he left off from Euro 2012, marauding down the left wing.
Kick-off: Sunday August 26, 6pm (UK time)
Form guide: Osasuna ( – – – – L) Barcelona ( – – – – W)
Last season: Osasuna 3-2 Barcelona
Stat fact: Barcelona have only won on three of the last seven League trips to Osasuna.
Osasuna (probable): Andres; Bertran, Arribas, Flano, Nano; Loe, Punal; Sisi, Cejudo, Lamah; Llorente
Barcelona (probable): Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Alba; Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta; Sanchez, Messi Pedro