FC Barcelona are on the early shift when they face bottom of the table Osasuna in the midday kick-off in Spanish Primera Liga on Saturday.
Barca coach Luis Enrique will no doubt be unhappy about the 1pm kick off in Pamplona after his side’s midweek Champions League win at home to Borussia Monchengladbach, but that game saw him rest several key players and allowed those given a start to make their claim for a first team place.
Tuesday’s win saw Barcelona recover some of the fluency that had been missing from their football in recent weeks and much of that was due to Andres Iniesta’s first start after recovering from a knee injury.
As well as adding close control and swift movement of the ball to the side, Iniesta’s return seemed to inspire the confidence that had been missing in recent matches and Barca looked much more like the side which won the double last season.
Although Iniesta will start in Pamplona, Neymar will miss out due to suspension and Enrique will have to decide whether or not he maintains Arda Turan after the Turk’s midweek hat-trick, or opts to push Iniesta forward and give Denis Suarez a place in midfield.
He will also have to decide whether Samuel Umtiti partners Gerard Pique in the Barca defense or if he sticks with Javier Mascherano, who has not been at his best in recent weeks.
Osasuna receive Barcelona with just seven points and no home win all season. The decision to replace the popular Enrique Martin with Joaquin Caparros not producing any improvement, indeed Osasuna have lost all four games and scored just one goal since Caparros’ arrival at El Sadar, with two of those defeats coming against Leganes and Sporting Gijon, direct rivals in the battle to avoid relegation.
Two weeks ago saw Atletico Madrid claim an easy 3-0 win in El Sadar and if Barca’s recovery, as hinted at in midweek, really is a fact a similar score could be on the cards on Saturday.