04 January 2012

FC Barcelona - Osasuna: First game of the new year

Messi and Alves, who rejoined the squad late, and Iniesta, who was injured against l’Hospitalet, are the main doubts. Osasuna are fifth in the league with 25 points, having only lost one game.


In Spain, January 6th is the day that the Kings bring presents, but this game is like an early gift for the fans. The Christmas break is over and football is back at the Camp Nou, and with all the magic and unpredictability of the cup against a side that is riding high in fifth place. You can never take anything for granted in a knockout competition, and all the more so against a team coached by Mendilíbar, who always likes to throw caution to the wind when he faces Barça. And that's what we can expect in tonight's cup tie, where Barcelona will be looking to get a good result to take with them to Pamplona in seven days time.

There are lot of uncertainties surrounding this encounter. That is always going to be the case just after the holidays, when several FC Barcelona players were away for some time. That's especially true of the South Americans, who have been back in their own countries for Christmas, namely Alves and Messi. The duo have both been back training this week, but some might still think it is too early for them to play competitive football.

The Argentinian has only trained twice since returning, and although he is as keen as ever to play, his manager may have different thoughts. There are also concerns about Iniesta, who was injured in the previous round against l'Hospitalet. Guardiola told a press conference on Tuesday that the midfielder is certainly ready to take his place in the team, but perhaps not for the full ninety minutes.

Guardiola is never the kind of man to dwell on the past, and he made it patently clear that the fact that his team inflicted a humiliating 8-0 defeat on Osasuna in September has nothing to do with this return meeting. Rather than expecting a similar rout, he believes it is more likely that Osasuna will have learned their lesson and will be coming with the added motivation of seeking to make amends for that setback. Also, this is a knockout game played over 180 minutes, very different circumstances indeed.

Despite that 8-0 loss at the Camp Nou and a similar 7-1 drubbing at the Santiago Bernabéu, Osasuna have been having a brilliant season. They have only lost one other league fixture and are fifth in the table with an impressive 35 points, just four less than Levante, who currently occupy the fourth Champions League slot. So, we can expect a match of the very finest quality to start the new year. (via FCBarcelona.cat)