Barcelona youngsters to be handed another audition against Osasuna as injuries persist

Sooraj Kamath - Writer 09:22 30/08/2019
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Carles Perez

Barcelona continue their La Liga defence with what should be a comfortable trip to Pamplona on match-day three.

Last weekend’s 5-2 win over Real Betis witnessed one of the most impressive performances from the Catalans without Lionel Messi in the squad.

The Argentine is likely to miss the tie against Osasuna and the onus will yet again fall on superstar addition Antoine Griezmann, who staged a match-winning performance last Sunday.

Will the next challenge prove to be as straightforward as the previous one? We take a look at the talking points.

Best midfield combination?

Frenkie

The transfer of Frenkie de Jong, promotion of Carles Alena and inclusion of Sergi Roberto in midfield has had Ernesto Valverde spoiled for choice.

From what we have seen in the pre-season games and first two La Liga fixtures, Ivan Rakitic has fallen out of favour as a starter and Sergio Busquets’ stance as an untouchable is also growing weaker.

De Jong and Roberto started both games and staged contrasting performances. Against Athletic Bilbao, the Dutchman played in Busquets’ position and impressed, while Roberto staged a flat performance on the left side of midfield.

In Barcelona’s only win, Roberto started on the right side of midfield and De Jong occupied the left with Busquets reclaiming his spot in the centre. The Spaniard was exceptional on the right, but the former Ajax man struggled to get accustomed to his new position.

Arthur and Arturo Vidal – who sat out from the starting line-up because of lack of match-fitness, reporting late from the Copa America – will also compete for the starter’s spot against Osasuna.

Will Valverde go with the same midfield, will he decide against playing Busquets and De Jong together and will Rakitic reclaim his spot in the line-up? It will be interesting to see what the manager has in mind.

Another opportunity for La Masia stars

Ansu Fati

Ansu Fati

La Masia graduates Carles Perez and Ansu Fati were the talks of the town last week after the youngsters impressed against Betis, ensuring the team did not miss injured Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

The latter two will sit out for a month, but Messi was tipped to return against Osasuna. However, the recovery has been slower than expected and the Argentine is likely to miss Barcelona’s tie against Osasuna.

Perez and Fati will look to pluck out the positive from this misfortune and enhance their case for regular first-team minutes and possibly a promotion.

The former scored his first goal for Barcelona against Betis and is favourite to grab the third attacker’s spot alongside Griezmann and Rafinha. The lack of options upfront all but promises Fati a few minutes in the second half.

If Messi’s injury helps these youngsters establish themselves and eradicate the reliance on the Argentine, Barcelona can benefit from the scenario.

A tough defence to unlock

The defending champions will take on a newly promoted side that is higher up the table and have not conceded a single goal this season.

Barcelona are still favourites, but Osasuna’s defence standing tall in the two games they have played adds an interesting perspective to the game.

Osasuna defeated Leganes 1-0 before settling for a 0-0 draw against Eibar, who were known for causing trouble against quality sides last season. The defence, led by Aridane Hernandez, could frustrate Barcelona and force the manager to adopt a Plan B if things go south.

Full-backs Nacho Vidal and Pervis Estupinan have been conservative about advancing forward and this could produce very little margin of error for Barcelona to exploit. The visitors will find it hard to get in-between spaces in the final third and face complications in finding the final ball.

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