Only an enormous shock in tomorrow night’s return leg in Pamplona can prevent the mouthwatering prospect of a Copa del Rey Quarter Final between Barça and Real Madrid. Osasuna need no fewer than five goals to put us out and to be fair I don’t think even the most optimistic Osasuna fan will be hoping for any more than a victory on the night. We saw in the second leg against L’Hospitalet that Pep Guardiola will not take these games lightly however simple they may seem at first glance. Eighteen players have been named for the trip, 15 from the first team plus Isaac Cuenca, Sergi Roberto and Martin Montoya. Keita has joined Mali for the African Cup, Alves and Iniesta with a light knock have been rested while Maxwell has been left out as it seems he is negotiating a move to Paris Saint-Germain and could sign very soon.
We have already scored twelve goals in two meetings with Osasuna this season, an 8-0 thrashing in the league in September was followed by the 4-0 win in the first leg last week though both these games were at Camp Nou. Osasuna are a much better team at the Reyno de Navarro stadium (I preferred it when it was called El Sadar), but it seems almost impossible that Barça could go out. We should perhaps remember the Getafe disaster in 2007 when we lost a 5-2 advantage from the first leg but these things don’t seem to happen with Guardiola in charge.
Despite losing heavily to us Osasuna are having an excellent season under Jose Luis Mendilibar and they are currently fifth in La Liga. They play an attacking style of football but this seems to leave them a little vulnerable against the very top teams. Mendilibar doesn’t expect much from tomorrow’s game as he has left out six first teamers to give a chance to some youngsters to get some experience. Hopefully Giuardiola will give Sergi Roberto, Cuenca and Montoya another first team chance though I can’t help feeling he might have added a couple more youngsters to the squad for this trip.
I don’t normally like to look past the next game, but the prospect of two more games with Madrid is so exciting. Not only do we have the bonus of two more clasicos which will make it nine games between the two great rivals in less than twelve months, we will also have the chance to affect their morale again. It is looking unlikely that Madrid will drop many points but it is probably better that they are stretched as much as possible. The Copa may end up having a big influence on the Liga and I think us playing each other again can only work in our favour. But first to finish the job with Osasuna, I’ll go for a narrow win for Barça.
Barça list for the trip: Pinto, Valdés, Montoya, Puyol, Piqué, Mascherano, Fontás, Abidal, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi, Thiago, S. Roberto, Cuenca, Fabregas, Messi, Alexis, Pedro.
Possible starting XI: Pinto, Montoya, Mascerano, Fontás, Adriano, Busquets, S.Roberto, Thiago; Cuenca, Alexis, Pedro.
My prediction: Osasuna 1 Barça 2