The champions travel to Pamplona for a difficult away game
The transfer window has officially shut, a wild Deadline Day has passed, and it’s time to finally watch some football without the market distractions. And La Liga champions Barcelona have one last game to play before the first international break of the season, and it’s a tricky one away from home as the Blaugrana travel to Pamplona to face Osasuna on Sunday night.
Deadline Day was truly a crazy one in the Catalan capital, with six total operations completed in the last 12 hours of the window that reshaped the squad into the image Xavi Hernández had for it going into the season. Joan Laporta, Mateu Alemany and Deco have done everything in their power to give the manager the group of players he wanted, and now it’s up to the boss and his men to give the club and the fans a successful season.
Barça have made a solid start, unbeaten in the first three league games with two wins and a draw, but there are many areas in need of improvement and they have to keep evolving while also keeping pace with the other title contenders. Dropping points away to Osasuna, even though it is never an easy place to go, is not an option, so here’s how think Xavi will line up his troops for Sunday’s battle.
The biggest signing of the window comes at the back, with João Cancelo arriving on loan to offer a giant upgrade at right-back that will allow the likes of Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo to play in their natural positions for most of the season.
But Cancelo, even if he is in the squad, probably isn’t fit enough to start right away, so Xavi will have no choice but to improvise again at right-back. The coach wasn’t happy with Sergi Roberto’s first half performance against Villarreal, but the injury to Araujo and Eric García’s exit don’t allow for Kounde to be played at full-back in this one, so the captain will most likely play one last game at right-back before Cancelo takes over after the international break.
Kounde will most likely be partnered by Andreas Christensen in the middle, though the Dane is still not 100% confirmed to start as he’s dealt with a slight muscle issue throughout the first month of the campaign and has had his minutes managed carefully so far. He should be good to go, though, with Alejandro Balde returning at left-back after not being risked last week due to an ankle problem.
The departures of Ansu Fati and Ez Abde have made it painfully clear that Xavi will stick with his four-midfielder system no matter what this season, and he wants to give it time to work and develop into the kind of unit he wants to dominate games at home or away. The double pivot of Oriol Romeu and Frenkie De Jong has been one of the few bright spots for Barça this season, and the two will once again start together in the base of midfield this weekend.
Ilkay Gündogan has been a great fit already, and his creativity and passing vision was crucial against Villarreal without Pedri. Gavi played well as a false left winger, a position and role that will be his for most of the season unless Xavi decides to change his system in the future.
Raphinha is back from suspension for this one, but the Brazilian has no choice but to wait for his return to the starting lineup. Lamine Yamal was simply sensational last week and earned a maiden call-up to the Spanish national team, and even though the 16-year-old shouldn’t be considered untouchable all season long and will have the natural ups and downs for a kid his age, it would be silly to put him on the bench for this one after such an incredible performance.
That leaves Robert Lewandowski as the man to lead the line, and his first goal of the season last week should serve as an important confidence boost for the Pole. But Ferran Torres is not going away and continues to make his case to play more minutes up front, and unless Lewandowski regains his 2022 form there should be a real debate about Barça’s central striker when we return from the international break.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; Romeu, De Jong; Yamal, Gündogan, Gavi; Lewandowski (4-2-3-1)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Osasuna? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!
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