Tomorrow night at 10 pm local time, Barça kick off 2012 by inviting Osasuna to the Camp Nou for the first leg of the 2011/12 Copa del Rey Round of 16. We’ve recently done rather well against Osasuna at the Camp Nou, winning both of their last visits by an aggregate scorline of 10-0 (2-0 and 8-0). Today marked the first training session with all players back from their brief break and there are no major injuries to speak of (I don’t include Afellay or Villa when saying so). 25 players were involved in the training, 18 first teamers and 7 from the B team (Montoya, Cuenca, Soriano, Dos Santos, Rafinha, Sergio Roberto, and Tello). Puyol didn’t train on the 1st with a minor muscle strain, while Abidal was in the gym today suffering from flu.
From his press conference this afternoon, in which Pep reiterated the importance he places on this Cup and the desire to win it, signs are Guardiola will play a reasonable strong team. But, in that phrase, “strong team”, there is a lot of ambiguity. Pep, quite correctly, will very much consider a strong team to include Cuenca and Thiago, even Montoya or Tello. I think it will be a mix of regular starters with the likes of those just mentioned. At the very least, I’d expect the bench to include the likes of Tello and Dos Santos. Messi may just play, in no small part to the wonderful display of dedication recently. Upon arriving from Argentina last night, Messi organized to train by himself that evening.
How lucky are we? So good luck predicting this starting 11, it will not be an easy one, besides of course Pinto in goal. If you didn’t know, Pinto renewed until June 2013 this week and received a roud of applause during training. Fair play to him, he’s done a solid enough job coming in when needed.
Logically, it would be nice to win comfortably tonight at home, allowing us to take it more easy in the return leg. Osasuna are gritty at home, less so under Mendilibar than Camacho, but a 3 goal cushion would surely be too much for a team that scores 1.6 goals at home on average this season. Saying all that though, Osasuna are 5th in the league, having lost only 3 times in total, the same amount Valencia have been defeated. It must be said Mendilibar is doing a fantastic job there with the limited resources at his disposal. He may just be looking to defend hard and take a 0-0 or 1-0 back home. They are however struggling with a few key players. Roversio, Kike Sola, Raúl Garcia, and Ruben will all be last moment fitness decisions.
The winner of this tie will face the victor of Real Madrid vs Málaga, so if reason prevails, we will have 2 extra Clásicos in January 2012 (17th-19th and 24th–26th).