To put into perspective Barcelona's recent struggles in La Liga, consider that the last time their chief rivals, Real Madrid, lost in any competition was against the Catalans on October 26. That makes Barca's two losses in their last three league games feel particularly egregious.
But perhaps the Catalans will be bolstered by their 2-1 win over Manchester City this week, or the fact that they've taken 36 of a possible 39 points at home this season, or that Osasuna have eight road losses.
Of course, Osasuna will be hoping the Catalans overlook them, with El Clasico coming next weekend in a match that will have astronomical implications for the league title. Let's break down this La Liga showdown.
When: Sunday at noon ET (4 p.m. GMT)
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
Match Forecast: Barcelona (80.9 percent), Osasuna (6.3 percent) and draw (12.8 percent), according to Bloomberg Sports
Everyone is scratching his or her head in confusion a bit about Barca's recent league struggles. Even the players are trying to figure out what is going on. On Friday, Cesc Fabregas joined in the confusion with his comments to RAC 1 (via Dermot Corrigan of ESPN):
It is so difficult to explain this change of image. I do not know if there is an explanation. It is not good, not for the fans or for us that it can change so much in four days, with such great discipline against City and that you play so bad and with such little motivation as we showed in Valladolid. That image was not appropriate for a player wearing a Barca jersey. I hope the game against City will be a point of departure and that from now all will be positive.
You have to wonder if a club that plays so many huge games and faces so many elite teams in a year sometimes gets a bit bored when facing the lower-tier clubs in its own league. That isn't an excuse, of course—Real Madrid certainly have had no issues with boredom—but something was missing in losses to Real Valladolid and Real Sociedad.
Barcelona better figure out what it was and fix it for this match—remember, Osasuna played Barca to a scoreless draw when these teams met in October. This match isn't a gimme, even at home.
One positive for the Catalans will be that Lionel Messi seemed himself again versus Manchester City. It's been an odd, at times disappointing season for the Argentine, but when he's fully healthy and in top form, Barca are tough to beat.
Francesc Tomas of ESPN broke down his performance versus City:
His confident runs, dynamism and improved attitude were impressive, definitely his best performance since returning from injury in early January.
The Argentinean wizard seemed determined to take centre stage from the initial whistle, constantly dropping into midfield to get involved, attracting defenders and opening up spaces for those around him as a result. His improved intensity and clever positioning enabled Messi to force the City's defenders into mistakes and late tackles on a regular basis.
That's exactly the form Osasuna hope he isn't in on Sunday. If he is, its hard to see the visitors keeping this one close.
It's also hard to imagine Osasuna even notching a goal in this game. Barcelona have given up just 22 goals on the year, second-best in La Liga, and just 10 goals at home. Meanwhile, Osasuna have only managed to score 24 goals this season. Only two teams have scored less.
The visitors will surely park the bus and hope for another scoreless draw. Don't expect the Catalans to acquiesce.
Too much is on the line for Barca for them to blow another game they'll be heavily favored to win. A loss here would probably end their La Liga title hopes, though they'll have to avoid looking ahead to the game against Real Madrid next week.
Osasuna won't make things easy, but they also don't present much of a goalscoring threat of their own. Expect Barca to roll in this one, winning 3-0.
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