1. This match really doesn’t deserve a full-fledged review, but I will offer up my thoughts anyway. Numbered for easy consumption, you should beware that some might be of the knee-jerk variety.
2. A draw at Osasuna is not the end of the world. It is not even the end of the season. Winning streaks aren’t meant to last, and you can thank the mighty Maker for that. It does mean that we are not going to win the league before Christmas. Heck, come to think of it, only a short time ago I wrote we would be empty-handed come June, a prediction I almost forgot about after the eight straight W’s we started the competition with, but oh well, who’s counting. If you are, our club is still three points ahead of proving me wrong.
3. Three points? They would have been five were it not for bad finishing. El Sadar has always been a tough ground for us, and this fixture was further complicated by appearing after two World Cup qualifiers. On a pitch that looks pixelated in a high definition broadcast, Barça really struggled find their rhythm, especially in the first half. Still, Bartra, Neymar, Montoya and Cesc (2x) all had excellent opportunities to put us on top, which, given the lack of threat posed by the home team, would probably have meant we only ever needed the one goal.
4. It was fun to see Puyol start, although I sometimes thought he looked a quarter step off. Well… that is probably a bit unfair, considering that our capita has spent the last two hundred and something days in rehab, so let’s just say he looked good out there. Marc Bartra must have been thrilled to play with his idol. The kid keeps giving us solid performances, and it will be interesting to see how he does against the likes of Balotelli* if he gets the nod at San Siro. I hope he will play, and against M*drid, too. Time for us to see what he is made of when facing teams that can hurt us. I have a feeling he won’t disappoint.
5. I wish I could say the same of our young right back, however. Obviously we cannot world class players backing up other world class players, and I do think that Montoya is an adequate second choice for his position, but I have yet to see anything to convince me he will one day replace Dani Alves for good. He inspired zero fear in an Osasuna defense who hardly even bothered with him and did not always look assured with the ball at his feet in his own half, either. He did have the bad luck that his one good cross was left unmet by Neymar, who arrived a split second slow. Still, in my opinion, with Messi on the bench and Alexis in the stand, this was not a good game for him to start, because it robbed the right side of our attack of its panache, and predictably so.
6. Neither would I have started Cesc as a false nine, a position at which I never like to see him play, anyway. Then again, I would have been proved wrong had he scored either of his one-on-ones with Andrés Fernandez. As it happened, whenever he wasn’t invisible the sheer awfulness of his misses just underscored how bad he was playing – one he blasted a meter over, and the other he tried to lob the ball over a retreating goalkeeper.
7. Last but not least, I would have brought on Tello a lot sooner. To be honest I wanted him to start him over Pedro, but since he didn’t I would have subbed out either Cesc or P. at half time in favor of señor Speeding Ticket. In defense of Martino, hindsight is king, and anyway Tello didn’t do all that much after he came on, as he is still looking for his first goal this season. A smarter man than myself might be able to tell you the what and why of his so far disappointing campaign, although a certain young Brazilian taking up his minutes on the left flank could certainly have something to do with it…
8. As always Neymar had some dazzling moments. It probably would have served us well had he moved to the center of the pitch where he could influence the match more. He still gets kicked a lot, and we can expect M*drid defenders to get away with murder next week when Iker’s shower buddy is arbitrating the clásico.
9. The midfield did a great job at controlling the match that needed to be taken over. Some well-timed forward dashes were sorely lacking. Were Xaviniesta affected by the international “break”? Neither of them played badly, but on a day where our two of our three forwards did not exactly make things happen, it sure would have been nice for our midfielders to step up some.
10. So what can we expect at San Siro? Will we face a similar opponent as in Pamplona, looking for ways to stop us from playing and on a horrid pitch? Will Messi be fit(ter)? Will we rest anybody with the clásico in mind? Your guess is as good as mine, but I look forward to finding out. Let’s hope we’ll do better than our last two visits.
11. See 2.
* EDIT: Just found out Balotelli is not playing. That’s too bad, I prefer a full strength Milan four days before the clásico.