El Centrocampista

LAMBS TO THE SLAUGHTER? – Mendilibar and his men travel to the Camp Nou

Perhaps one of the ‘surprise stories’ of the opening two rounds of La Liga fixtures is that of Osasuna.

Widely expected by many to struggle this season after the sale key players in Nacho Monreal and Javier Camunas, Osasuna instead find themselves unbeaten after following up an opening day draw against Athletico Madrid with a 2-1 victory over Sporting Gijon last week.

This weekend they face arguably what will be their toughest trip of the season, as they travel to the imperious Nou Camp.

They face a Barcelona team who will be looking to bounce back to winning ways and ‘normality’ after twice throwing away leads in the past week, first away at Racing Santander last Saturday and then at home to AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Despite those recent slips, even the most staunch Los Rojillosfan will admit that it is going to take something extraordinary for their teams unbeaten start to still be in tact come 9pm on Saturday.

After destroying Villarreal 5-0, Barcelona had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad.

In fact it seems that coach Mendilibar as written off his side already: “You don’t know how to play them. If you’re open, they’ll score eight and if you wait for them then it is just the same. Statistically, with them drawing their last two games, it is hard to see them not winning the third.”

A look at the head to heads over recent times and Barcelona unsurprisingly dominate with five victories in their last eight matches against Osasuna.

The Pamplona side have emerged victorious once whilst the teams have shared the spoils on two occasions.

To the naked eye that looks impressive and yet another pointer to what should be a comfortable win for the home team.

Take a deeper look however and it becomes clear the away side have actually proved somewhat of a hindrance to the finely tuned Catalyna machine.

The record of five points out of a possible 24 actually reads as a good one when compared to how other teams have fared against the champions.

In fact it is just another pointer to the dominance of Barcelona in recent years that there would be a whole host of clubs lining up to swap head to head records against them – two giants Villarreal and Valencia leading that queue.

While I am not suggesting that you go and put your mortgage on Osasuna – although at odds of 25/1 – it would be one hell of a rag to riches story, it does go to show that sometimes even the least glamorous teams have better success against Barcelona.

It may only be crumbs, but those crumbs are ones that sometimes you have to feast upon.

The fact that they are missing five key players due to injury is only going to add to Osasuna’s uphill battle and rather disappoinintgly it has been reported in the Spanish press that coach Mendilibar may even rest players for the game, conceding the game before even a ball has been kicked a decision that if proven correct, could have a disastrous effect not just on Saturday but the season as a whole.

So often managers see games against Barcelona and Real Madrid as inconviences, games which will not have a bearing on how their teams fare in the rest of the season.

On the score sheet that may often be the case but behind the scenes it may not be strictly true.

A full strength Osasuna could have just about competed to some degree with Barcelona, their reserve team would be like lambs to the proverbial slaughter.

Right now spirits must be high, a big defeat however and that unbeaten start will soon be forgotten.

A spirited and respectable effort could boost morale even further.

Jose Luis Mendilibar needs to think very carefully before he casually throws away the game away.

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