With Real Madrid clash looming, Barca face Osasuna

Madrid, March 15: FC Barcelona coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino is taking few chances ahead of next weekend’s vital trip to play Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu and the Argentine coach is doing everything to ensure he can play his strongest possible side in what is shaping up to be the most important game of the season.

Barca have to win against their bitter rivals in order to have a chance of overtaking Real Madrid in the race for the Spanish Primera Liga title, reports Xinhua.

Martino will rest central defender Gerard Pique for Sunday’s home game against Osasuna in order to ensure Pique doesn’t pick up a fifth booking this weekend which would see him suspended in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Although, Pique has not been at his best this campaign, he is still the most reliable of Barca’s defenders and his presence is vital in Madrid if Barca are to have a chance to haul themselves back into contention for the title.

To be in condition to fight it out with Real Madrid, Barca must first of all defeat Osasuna, a side who have shown themselves to be a tough defensive rock to crack this season with home draws against both Barca and Madrid.

Barca are likely to change their starting 11 Sunday with Xavi Hernandez rested after playing his part in Barca’s qualification for the quarter-finals of the Champions League Wednesday.

With Xavi out, Alexis Sanchez will return to the starting 11, while Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta will make up the Barca midfield.

Meanwhile, Neymar is likely to be the focus of attention and the fact is the recent revelations of tax avoidance by the club linked to his transfer, which caused the resignation of Sandro Rosell as club president in January, appears to have affected his form.

IANS