Fear the Complacency: Barcelona – Osasuna

It was mid-afternoon on Friday when I received word that Lionel Messi had been injured enough to keep him out of Sunday’s game against Osasuna. I immediately panicked, as any good cule would. I lit my computer on fire, threw my phone out the nearest window, and wailed loudly for hours. My boss was very upset by the first and third of those measures given that I was in the office while my wife was very upset by the second. On Saturday I was greeted by the headline that Messi does not, actually, have an injury. I immediately reverse panicked, as any cule worth his salt would. I kissed a random baby, handed a stranger $20, and whooped loudly for hours. My wife was very upset by the second and third of those measures while the random baby’s mother was very upset by the first.

The point is, of course, that Lionel Messi is important. Underlying that are some personal issues, but those are not the point of this preview. Without our little Argentine, how could Barcelona possibly defeat mighty third-to-last Osasuna? They have Kike Sola, Patxi Puñal, and Oier Sanjurjo. Who do we have? Just a bunch of new or soon-to-be daddies who like to pick up cards for whining and diving. Not much to hang your hat on there, really. Fortunately we don’t have to cross the bridge where we pick up the pieces of our devastated season as Messi sits on the bench for a whole day while the team struggles to find goals without him. Further good news: Osasuna is an atrocious 1W-2D-6L (6GF 13GA) while on the road, Barcelona has allowed just 7 goals en casa all season, and Osasuna is missing several players due to injury or ACN duty. That Osasuna sits 18th in the table, 37 points behind Barcelona should further widen the smile that is, perhaps, settling across most cule’s lips.

And yet.

The first time we played them, Osasuna took the game to Barcelona with fury and determination, Joseba Llorente finished neatly to blow the roof off of Osasuna’s cauldron of a stadium, El Sadar, and the world looked set to flip on its head. Messi scored a goal that started with an offside by Alexis and then Messi swept home the winner just 4 minutes later. It was anything but an easy game. You can watch the goals here.

Osasuna also just drew with Real Madrid a couple of weeks ago on January 12. They then beat Depor to turn what had been a poor December (1 point from 4 games) into a new dawn for them. And then, of course, a trip to the Camp Nou jumps up and they’ve got quite the uphill battle. Yet they showed against Madrid that they can stifle attacks as well as anyway. The difference is that Madrid’s attacks were tepid at best: they went with long balls rather than building through the middle and refused to really turn on the engine. Yes, both Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo were both suspended for that match, but like with the above scenario where Messi misses out, it’s the other superstars that are supposed to do the work for once.

That is the fundamental difference between this year’s Barcelona and Real Madrid: superstars that work and superstars that wonder why they have to work. Whatever David Villa’s complaints about playing time, there are few to no stories about him in the papers, whereas there is a constant barrage of headlines and “reports” from “inside sources” detailing myriad fractures in the Madrid locker room. If a tenth of them are true, that has to be a terrible environment to work in. I don’t know that a tenth of them are true, of course, and I suspect that they’re not, but it’s certainly not the harmonious image that Barcelona gives off even while a world class player is supposedly on the outs. All credit to David Villa for his professionalism, whatever his thoughts.

Another difference: Barcelona only gets more persistent in their attacks and ball control as their opponent gets more stubborn. Madrid, this year (and it is important to note that I am talking about this season exclusively) has often looked like a team that believes it will coast to glory without really caring or worrying about actually, you know, scoring goals. The terrifying thing is that they’ve scored 50 of them without bothering to try in most games. 5 of the goals came against Valencia, of course, in a game that showed off their firepower while also recording a clean sheet. Still, if they’re finally back (whatever that means), they’ve chosen a hell of a time to start fighting: 15 points out of 1st and 7 points out of 2nd, with only the slimmest of chances to grab the title. And yeah, they’re actually 4 points out of first given that Atleti will roll over and die as usual in their next league encounter.

Why so much about them? Because without waking up each morning and getting ready to play your heart out, you end up just like them: looking up into the sky for those you consider rivals, craning your neck so much you might just snap it. Complacency is the thing that can’t creep in and it Barcelona doesn’t look very complacent. I didn’t catch it, but there was possibly some complacency once the team was up 0-2; that sort of thing simply can’t be allowed to happen and it’s games against the 18th place team where than can happen all too often.

“Oh, they’re just a doormat,” and then bam, #1 Duke gets destroyed by Miami.

“Oh, they’re just nobodies from nowhere,” and then bam, Arsenal gets the boot by fourth division Bradford City.

Osasuna is by no means incapable of winning matches. They’ve won 4 of them so far this season, including a 4-0 thrashing of Levante. Yes, the Levante that sits in 6th. They also beat Espanyol 0-3 at Cornella. It’s easy to overlook these guys because that’s all they’ve really done, but they have yet to lose by more than 2 goals and, overall, have allowed fewer goals (21) than Barcelona (23). Never say never to the 0-0 draw or the last minute winner.

Now, can we just go back to reverse panicking about how my fantasy team is going to do better this week because Messi isn’t injured? Hooray!

Official Prediction: 2-1. Goals by Messi (2).

“I will score this many goals…we don’t count thumbs, do we?”

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.

112 comments

  1. Yes, complacency is a factor, but not one to fear, only one to avoid. We’ve earned ourselves a nice cushion in La Liga.
    We should treat this match as practise for the ass whipping we will hand out on wednesday.

  2. I was hoping they would sit Messi out for this one…

    According to El Mundo Deportivo the line up will be:

    Valdes
    Dani Alves, Puyol, Masch, Alba
    Song
    Thiago Cesc
    Alexis Messi Villa

    Yes, Villa will start!

  3. I’m also hoping that the staff keeps Leo on the bench today just to keep him fresh and hungry for EE…

    VV
    Adriano Puyi Masche Alba
    Thiago Song Cesc
    Alexis Villa Pedro

  4. Another enjoyable preview.

    To the owners of the site, I sent you a message via the Contact section of your site. Can you please respond? 🙂

    1. Unfortunately, tickets sold out before I realised that the game was on, otherwise we would have been there, and then hopping across the street to watch the Osasuna match too!

      But we’ll just have to do Osasuna only. 😆

      Mom4 says “HI!” to everyone. She’s having difficulties logging into the site from Barcelona.

  5. I seriously see those as a good chance to rest Messi and put some responsibility on the other forwards, sort of to give them some burden and motivation to score goals themselves.

    And we also have a big match this midweek.

    Let’s hope Tito is big enough to rest Messi like he did earlier in the season.

    We can afford to drop point but we can’t afford to have a bad match vs Madrid. Since we’re already in SF, let’s go all out. And it would hurt so bad to be knocked out by Madrid.

  6. Messi was onside for Villa’s pass and Pedro wasn’t, but can’t blame Pedro’s instinct to go for it, I guess…

    I would have thought they’d do an “Animo Iker” before the match?

    1. I don’t think they should’ve done. It’s just a small football related injury. If they did one for Iker then they would have to do an “animo (injured player)” player every time they play. Hehe

    1. It’s beginning to appear that the most reliable way to score on Barcelona is to aim the ball at Mascherano. With the luck he’s having these days, the ensuing deflection isn’t likely to favor Barca.

      Speaking of (un)lucky deflections… tough luck for Osasuna.

  7. So you’re telling me EE’s defence with all those players missing is better than Barca’s defence with their best defence. This is crazy not even keeping a clean sheet vs a team who have trouble scoring.

    1. Barca’s […] best defence.

      Alba and Pique might object to that characterization. Just sayin’…

    2. Neither of them help much.

      The defense has been awful ever since Abidal went down. He was extremely stabilizing for a few reasons:

      1. He played very conservatively which allowed Alves to bomb up. Now Barca have wild fullbacks on both sides.

      2. He could fit in easily as a CB for a three man CB formation.

      3. He had height which is obviously lacking now.

  8. Yeah, I’m not sure what happened. Thiago and Villa not sure which to mark but the big question for me is where was Adriano during the move?

  9. Man, do they hate Villa or something? There has been approximately 0% of the play down the left hand side. Seen him touch the ball once so far, and that too near his own penalty box.

    1. I don’t think it’s anything to do with Villa, really. Thiago and Adriano not as practiced, so play is shifting to Alves and Pedro. If it were Iniesta and Alba out on the left, it’d be more balanced.

    2. *Iniesta in midfield behind Villa, not Iniesta instead of Villa on the wing. We’ve seen some lovely link up with Alba-Iniesta-Villa on the left this year, I really hope we get to see more of it…

    3. I meant that as well; they’ve started less effective people on the left, so play is directed completely through the right; and Villa will be dragged off around the 60 min mark with 0 shots on goal and like only half a dozen touches on the ball, and we’ll hear all about how it wasn’t a good game for him.

      Bit miffed about that.

    1. But sometimes his nightmare benefits Barca. As in the pass to Dani which led to Barca’s 3rd goal.

    1. I’m guessing Busquets and Xavi are more likely to be taken off, if only to save them for Madrid.

      There isn’t a chance in hell Villa is starting against Madrid.

  10. Alexis. Love that man. There seems to be a ridiculous misses reel out there and he’s upset that there are people other than him on it.

  11. Second time Alexis should have shot rather than passed. He really is the worst #9 to ever play for Barca.

  12. Messi outdoing Ronaldo once again… a comfortable win but he is still the only confident striker we have although Pedro is improving.
    Our ex-youth teamer Mauro Icardi got 4 goals for Sampdoria today… youtube it – it’s worth it

  13. Near the end of the 1st half the camera showed 2 ladies behind the dug out. One of them wore glasses. I kept wondering if it was Mom4 and Nzm….

    In the 2nd half they did show some ladies but both of them were sitting alone so I doubt it.

    So was it you guys by any chance that were sitting behind the dug out?

  14. Messi could’ve had a hattrick of assists if the likes of Villa finished off his passes.

    I don’t care if Ronald scored a hattrick. Messi is still the better player even if he didn’t score any.

    I can imagine some newspapers already having Ronald on their cover only for them to remove it for Messi hehe

  15. 1) he’s not a striker so don’t expect him to be a #9. Would you be less harsh on him of he had any other number on his jersey besides #9?

    2) Zidane wore #5 while playing in Madrid. That number is usually associated with defenders. So by your logic that Alexis is our worst #9 because he can’t seem to score goals, Zidane is the worst #5?

    1. I know – I wasn’t criticisng you. Another excellent game from Alexis. First “chance” he got dragged left with the cover closing him down, so he put it on a plate for Messi who had a rare brainfart and tried to control it. If he’d hit it first time, it was a goal. Only one person to blame for not scoring that one, and it wasn’t Alexis.
      The other big chance, he got a bad pass from Messi. Once again, Messi to blame (if anyone wants to play that game).
      Other than that, he set up several good chances and worked hard.

  16. It must’ve been hilarious over at the Guardian. Mourasaint and Tommoman must be pulling out their hair right now. They’re the biggest Ronaldo fan boys and a Messi hater on that site.

  17. I think Valdes was half a step too slow getting down for that goal. Wonder if a quicker keeper would have stopped it.

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