The compact Reyno de Navarra ground – previously called El Sadar – is a cauldron of noise and support for the home team on any occasion, but particularly against the big teams like Barça and as Tito Villanova made clear on Saturday, the crowd, coach Mendilibar’s tactics and his players ability to put them into action pose a real threat to Barça on their first away trip of the season.
Mendilibar: “Barça dominate the game”
Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar may have tasted victory against Barça last season, but he’s aware how tough it will be to repeat that: “they haven’t changed much from last season and we have seen in their first two games that they continue to dominate and create chances. They have a new coach, but Tito has been with them for quite a few years and he’s an intelligent guy who knows how to get the best out of his players. Against Barça we will clearly not have much possession – they take the ball off you and you have to race after them and keep running. We’ll have to hit them with pace to try and get near their goal”.
Pace, commitment and set pieces
Pace is indeed the key to Osasuna’s style, with new signings Siso and Nano offering width and on-loan striker Joseba Llorente brought in to provide the finishing. Club captain and local hero Patxi Puñal is a battling midfielder in an area where the loss of Raul Garcia and Nekounam in the summer was a real blow. The defence features ex-Barça defender Damia and another of the team’s iconic figures, Pamplona born Miguel Flaño, who summed up the club recently declaring “it’s a healthy and competitive atmosphere”. As well as pace, Osasuna will always be looking to create danger from set pieces with their big men and their high work rate guarantees a full 90 minute commitment.
Niño: “we have to take advantage of Barça’s mistakes”
Osasuna will also work hard at trying to win back possession high up the pitch, harrying the Barça playmakers and defenders and as their front man Niño explained: “we’ll have to take advantage of any mistakes Barça make – the trouble is they don’t make many. Maybe the best time to play them is in February like we did last year when the pitch was frozen!”.