Substitute Victor Roque made instant impact to give Barcelona a 1-0 win against 10-man Osasuna as he emerged from the bench to scored the winner.
Barcelona dominated possession but struggled to create any real clear cut opportunities in the first half, with Osasuna limiting the hosts to very little.
Xavi, who is having to deal with a seriously depleted squad, had more misery piled on him when Ferran Torres went down with a suspected hamstring after seven minutes. Torres then left the field in tears, an indication that he could be out for some time.
The Blaugrana’s best chance of the half came on 35 minutes when Jules Kounde rose highest to meet an Ilkay Gundogan corner but the Frenchman could only divert his header just over the crossbar.
Xavi’s men continued to get into the final third but just couldn’t fashion anything noteworthy in the first half, having eight shots but finding the target on just one occasion.
Barcelona came out of the blocks quickly at the start of the second period, with Xavi’s side looking to take less touches and move the ball forward quicker into attacking areas.
The hosts though continued to struggle to create anything meaningful in the final third, prompting Xavi to turn to his bench. The Barcelona manager opted to withdraw Fermin Lopez, who himself had been substituted into the game early in the first half, replacing him with Brazilian Vitor Roque.
Roque was brought on to breathe life into what had been a lacklustre Barcelona attack and it took him less than one minute to do exactly that, heading home a fantastic Joao Cancelo cross to score the opening goal of the game.
Just minutes later and Roque was involved again, this time he was held back by Unai Garcia as Barcelona looked to counter and the Osasuna captain was shown a second yellow card and dismissed.
Osasuna had a huge chance to equalise 15 minutes from time, with Ruben Garcia threading a great ball through to Raul Garcia who just had Inaki Pena to beat but the 23-year-old could only fire his effort wide of the far post. It was a moment that was by far Osasuna’s biggest chance and Garcia will have been disappointed he didn’t at least make Pena work.
That was as close as Osasuna got to an equaliser, with Barcelona keeping the ball well in the final minutes to see out the victory.
TALKING POINT – A THIN SQUAD GETS THINNER
Barcelona manager Xavi, who recently announced that he is to depart from the club at the end of the season, recently said that it is a “cruel and unpleasant job” that “makes you feel worthless on a daily basis”, citing a problem in terms of the “level of demand”. Despite the three points tonight at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys courtesy of Vitor Roque’s goal, Xavi lost yet another key player when Ferran Torres left the field in tears after just seven minutes with what looked to be a hamstring injury.
Barcelona already have a threadbare squad and Torres’ absence will be sorely felt by the Blaugrana, with the former Manchester City man scoring seven goals and providing two assists in LaLiga alone this season. As things stand, Barcelona now have Ferran Torres, Joao Felix, Raphinha, Sergi Roberto, Marcos Alonso and Inigo Martinez on the sidelines, with some closer than others to returning to action – not to mention the fact that they have long-term injuries to key men such as Gavi, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Alejandro Balde.
Tonight’s win has moved Barcelona to 47 points, seven points behind Real Madrid in second and eight points behind Girona in the top spot but Xavi will have his mind on the future and the upcoming games in both LaLiga and a Champions League knockout tie with Napoli. Xavi has told the public how hard the Barcelona job is and with each new injury it is getting even harder.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – JOAO CANCELO (FC BARCELONA)
The Portuguese full-back was a constant thorn in Osasuna’s side tonight down the left-hand side. The 29-year-old constantly got himself into the final third, putting in some good crosses that weren’t always met. His determination to get into a crossing position paid off in the second half when he received the ball before firing in a wonderful cross which substitute Vitor Roque headed home. Cancelo was involved in almost all of Barcelona’s good work tonight.
FC Barcelona: Pena 7, Kounde 7, Araujo 7, Cubarsi 7, Cancelo 9, Gundogan 7, Pedri 7, De Jong 7, Yamal 7, Lewandowski 7, Torres N/A Subs: Lopez 6, Romeu 6, Roque 8
Osasuna: Fernandez 7, Mojica 6, Herrando 6, Garcia 6, Unai Garcia 5, Areso 7, Moncayola 7, Torro 7, Oroz 6, Arnaiz 6, Budimir 6 Subs: Brasanac 6, Ruben Garcia 6, Raul Garcia 6, Lumberas 6, Barja 6
64′ GOAL! FC BARCELONA (VITOR ROQUE) – Vitor Roque has scored with what must be his first touch! The substitute was brought on to bring life to Barcelona’s attack and he has done EXACTLY that! Joao Cancelo played in an incredible trivela assist from the left-hand side of the penalty area and Roque managed to get in front of his man to head home!
68’ RED CARD – OSASUNA – Unai Garcia has been sent off for a really cynical block on Vitor Roque as Barcelona looked to counter.
76′ A HUGE CHANCE GOES BEGGING FOR OSASUNA – Osasuna have missed a HUGE chance here, Ruben Garcia feeds the ball into Raul Garcia who just has Pena to beat but he fires his effort wide of the post.
79′ OFFSIDE – NO GOAL – Robert Lewandowski receives the ball on the left-hand side of the penalty area before bending an effort past Fernandez but the flag is up and it won’t count.