FC Barcelona will travel to Pamplona to face the challenge of Osasuna on matchday 14 of La Liga at El Sadar Stadium before the club football comes to a break as the World Cup starts.
Date: Tuesday, October 8th, 2022
Competition: La Liga
Match Day: 14
Venue: El Sadar Stadium
Time: 09:30 pm Central European Time (Barcelona)
Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), Premier Player (UK), Movistar+ (Spain)
Looking at the league table, possibly the biggest (positive) surprise is Osasuna’s placement, not only are the Basques in the first half but they are currently sitting on the 5th position, which is more than impressive, especially taking into account the multitude of decent teams fighting for the European places such as Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad or Real Betis.
Moreover, based on the advanced statistics, their good performances come from a constant, sustainable outcome of their quality of play, impressing at both ends of the pitch. Statistically, the Basques have the 5th best defense in the league (12.4 XGA), while also having the 6th best offensive play (17.1 XG).
Los Rojillos are certainly doing well this season, and their manager, Jagoba Arrasate has a crucial role in their success. The Spanish master has done a commendable job in building up this team, and now, he is blessed to see his hard work blossom. However, there is still a long way to go, and it will be surely challenging to keep up the good form, earliest today.
Switching to the Blaugranas, what gives Xavi the biggest headache is organizing the defense. As the collective defensive performance is often tightly correlated to the individuals playing in there, especially against those better teams that could exploit the weaknesses of these players, it begs the question of what should be done to avoid these scenarios as much as possible.
While a systemic change might seem as the obvious solution, our perspective of play requires even more players closer to the opposition’s goal, thus, just a few defenders are left to cover the space behind and stop potential breakthroughs on the counter, which places high pressure and responsibility on our defenders.
Playing in a high line, such as at our club, requires some special abilities, which, naturally, not everyone possesses. Such is the case with the likes of Marcos Alonso, Eric García, and Gerard Piqué too, whose recovery speed is a major liability in the defense, something that pacy attackers can easily exploit.
It further holds us back that our best defensive partnership in that sense, Ronald Araújo, and Jules Koundé are out of selection, which leaves just Andreas Christensen as the only reliable option at the moment. Of course, physicality is not everything, but can easily be a decisive factor.
Another thing which not helps is the fact that our best right-back and our best left-back is one person, namely Alejandro Baldé. The young Spaniard’s physical competence, technical prowess, and tactical understanding make him a great all-around fullback, one who has the potential to dominate the future but also gives a gentle warning: there is no proper competition even out of his natural position.
Moving on to the offensive section, there is a certain player whose unpredictability is unbelievably outrageous, who is able to showcase his compelling talent once, and the next minute is doing the greatest stupidity in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ousmane Dembélé for you.
The man whose Barcelona career has been constantly defined with performances of the biggest amplitude didn’t fail to belie his true self once again, as we could see it, for our greatest frustration, in our last game against Almería. At first, his genius gave us the lead with a magnificent goal, but right after, wasted a golden opportunity with his dreadful decision-making.
The annoyance did not hail from the fact that he missed, because it didn’t matter in the end, but the fact that he is unable to change and outgrow his long-standing shortcomings, explicitly in his decision-making. With Xavi’s arrival, it finally seemed to move in a positive direction, and hopefully, he can somehow improve his aspect of play, because his potential is undoubtedly enormous.
Finally, we are once again leading the race for the title as our greatest rival, Real Madrid lost to Rayo Vallecano by a margin of 3-2, granting us the advantage heading into the last round before the World Cup break.
Having the lead would be a great psychological achievement, before the players spread to their respective national teams, where a long, difficult, intense one-month campaign will take place, among varied circumstances with different climates, time zones, training routines, and many other factors.
Expected Line up:
Goal Keeper: Ter Stagen
Defenders: Alba, Christensen, Pique, Balde
Midfielders: Pedri, Busquets, Gavi
Forwards: Ferran, Lewandowski, Dembele