Liga Preview: Barcelona – Osasuna, Saturday 2pmEST, GolTV
Osasuna is a special team. Not special special, but more like special to me. You see, they were the cannon fodder, thrown to the blaugrana lions, torched with implacable ferocity, all on the altar of me preparing the dinner I prefaced my wedding proposal to soon-to-be Mrs. The Lady. She had no idea, of course, and still doesn’t that it was Osasuna that I completely and totally ignored that day while I slaved in the kitchen over a sumptuous feast. I seriously watched like 2 minutes of it and was happy that we won, the sounds of the game coming from the living room, some friends telling me to come in for replays. I’m not even sure I knew that Messi had scored a second until a few hours later.
So they’re a special team. And this special team has scored 7 goals more than Messi. Better than Hercules and Depor, who have scored fewer goals than the little Argie Bargie. But they’re also a different team than we faced back in December. They got a new coach on February 14 after Camacho was given the boot. The team had won 5 times, including earning a 1-0 victory over Real Madrid, but that wasn’t enough—they were in 18th and had lost 11 times in 23 matches and 6 of the previous 11.
They appointed Jose Luis Mendilibar, a man whose name always makes me titter for some reason I’m not entirely sure about—Mendilibar—yeah, I really don’t know why but I think everyone around me just wondered why the nerdy kid just tittered. Mendilibar—heee—has led Osasuna to 4 victories in 9 games, for an overall record of 4-1-4 (15GF, 9GA). They’ve failed to score just twice under their new manager, so that’s nice for them, but they’re also on a 3 match losing streak in which they’ve allowed 5 of those 9 goals and scored just 4. Diego Costa grabbed a hat trick against them, after all.
Something odd that I noticed: each time Barça has drawn, we’ve won the next game 2-1. All the draws were 1-1 too and each of the subsequent matches were played at the Camp Nou, so it stands to reason that we’ll win 2-1. Consider that my official prediction: 2-1 over Valencia, 2-1 over Athletic Bilbao, and 2-1 over Getafe. Not a single repeat goal scorer in any of those 3 matches either: Villa, Messi, Iniesta, Puyol, Alves, and Bojan. So I think that means Pedro and Mascherano. Sure it does. Put the house on it. And your dog. Or maybe just someone else’s dog.
So who will we play? JDS, Thiago, Jeffren, and hell, why not Deleofeu? Maybe that new American prospect, Ben whatever? Are we resting players or thinking they have the batteries left to make it through the next 2 weeks? Does resting superstar athletes get them out of rhythm? Are they in rhythm? Can playing against Osasuna put them back into a groove? Weren’t they amazing in the second half on Wednesday? Would you stop asking questions? Aaaargh, didn’t I just ask you—Mendilibar: heeeeee.
So many questions not enough Mendilibar to calm the nerves that are already building for next week. Adriano is out, Puyol is still messed up. Maxwell will have to play 4 weeks in a row and Alves better not get suspended or we’ll be without a right back unless Puyol can actually step in. Do we bring up Montoya? Do we bring in Fontas now? Why is like half our squad injured? Oh, because we have a squad of 4 people, that’s right. Oops.
But it has worked for so long that it’s impossible to really accuse Guardiola of failing at anything, unless, of course you’re short sighted and don’t remember anything about the last 3 years. Have we forgotten how well we played at the end of the year in each of the previous Champions League campaigns? Have we forgotten that we’re looking squarely at our third consecutive La Liga title? We made the final of the Copa del Rey twice in 3 years and it could have been 3 out of 3 if it weren’t for a miserly Sevilla defense. Terrible team management, right?
Sure, we had no one on the bench to come out and smash something into the back of the net on Wednesday, but that’s because they’re injured. Our starting left back is wounded, our second string striker is out, and now even our second string left back is gone for almost the rest of the season. And our captain, our man of men, our adofiiuwehslRAAAAWR in human form, isn’t 100%, and might be missing.
Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell, Mascherano, Xavi, Thiago, Jeffren, Messi, Pedro
For Osasuna? Mendilibar–heeeeeeee