Mon, 18 Jan 2021

Dilemma for Koeman as Barca prepare to face Osasuna

Xinhua
28 Nov 2020, 21:44 GMT+10

MADRID, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has to decide whether to keep his faith in youth when his side entertains Osasuna in the Camp Nou on Sunday.

Barca go into the game without Gerard Pique, Ansu Fati and Sergi Roberto, who all have long-term injuries, while Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo are still not fully fit and Sergio Busquets is a doubt after hurting his knee on Spain duty.

Koeman opted to rest Leo Messi and Frenkie de Jong to give young players a chance in his side's Champions League tie away to Dynamo Kiev in midweek and was rewarded with one of Barca's most convincing displays of the season.

Although Messi and De Jong are almost certain to be back on Sunday, Koeman must now decide whether to continue with young central defender Oscar Mingueza (who had an assured debut in Kiev) and Carles Alena, who has not entered into Koeman's plans since returning from loan at Betis, or whether to play De Jong out of position in central defense and bring Busquets into the midfield if available.

Messi will obviously return to the side and will probably play alongside Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, who is increasingly being linked with interest from Manchester United.

The Barca players on Friday agreed to further wage reductions to lower the club's wage bill by over 150 million euros and, while that will probably do little to raise the morale of the players, it will at least give the club some economic breathing room.

Where Barca have little breathing room is in their league position with just 11 points from eight games this season leaving them 12 points behind league leaders Real Sociedad (albeit with two games in hand) and nine points behind second place Atletico Madrid.

That means anything other than a win at home to a rival will see Barca's title aspirations all but vanish well before Christmas.

Osasuna have been slightly irregular this season, but can be expected to defend solidly and in Roberto Torres, who signed a new contract this week, they have a player capable of giving Barca problems from set pieces.

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