11 February 2012

Spotlight on CA Osasuna

Osasuna - the name means health in Basque- are the local team in Pamplona and although the city may be more famous for its bull running in San Fermines, the club –which like Barça is owned by its members - inspires fierce loyalty from its local fans.

The club was founded in 1920 and although they have only won second division titles and a Spanish Cup runners-up title (in 2004) in their 80-year-history, they have been a top flight team since 2000 and as well as their Cup success they also qualified for the Champions League in 2006 and a year later reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup. Although they ended up in the bottom half for the next few seasons, Osasuna finished 9th last year after flirting with relegation – with new boss Jose Luis Mendilibar taking over from Jose Antonio Camacho in
February.

The late 80s saw two ex-Liverpool legends, Sammy Lee and Michael Robinson join forces at the Sadar – as the stadium was then, and indeed to many still is, known - under Pedro Mari Zabalza and the pair enjoyed two successful seasons at the club, including a fifth place La Liga finish and a Cup semi-final.

Osasuna were in fifth spot at Christmas this season, despite losing 8-0 to Barça and 7-1 to Real Madrid, and only lost their first game at home in the Cup against Barça in January. Their success has been mainly down to their great form at the Reyno de Navarra – with the passionate local fans making Pamplona a tough place for any team to visit -and the team, who lost just three times at home last season, have gone down just twice this time round. Mendilibar has stayed true to the club’s competitive style and his current squad boasts six
home-grown players.

Saturday’s will be the fourth meeting between Barça and Osasuna this season: after the thrashing at the Camp Nou in the league, Mendilibar’s men fared somewhat better in the first leg of the last-16 tie of the Spanish Cup, going down 4-0, before again getting beaten in the second leg in Pamplona by two goals to one.

The Iranian midfielder Javad Nekounam has already scored four goals for Osasuna this season and his ability as both a holding midfielder and a scorer of goals from long distance has made him a firm favourite with the Pamplona fans. The Iranian is likely to play alongside local lad Raul Garcia, on loan from Atletico Madrid and in front of a defence with ex-Barça man Damia Abella and fellow Catalan Marc Beltran –who was born in the same town as Carles Puyol. (via FCBarcelona.com)