Barcelona vs Osasuna Preview Blaugrana desperate to get title challenge back on track

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Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino

Barcelona-Osasuna Preview: Blaugrana desperate to get title challenge back on track

The Catalans have fallen four points behind Real Madrid after losing three of their past six games in La Liga, meaning they cannot afford to slip up at Camp Nou

Barcelona host Osasuna on Sunday with coach Gerardo Martino under pressure after a couple of disappointing results that have dented their title hopes.

The Catalan club's prospects of retaining their La Liga crown have been significantly damaged after a number of surprising defeats in recent weeks.

Martino's men were stunned 1-0 by last weekend losing to a Real Valladolid side that is battling against relegation and had won just four previous Primera Division matches this campaign.

That shock setback made it three defeats in six league games for Barca, with the other two reverses coming against Valencia and Real Sociedad.

Barca are third in La Liga as a result of their poor form, four points adrift of league leaders and arch rivals Real Madrid.

Valladolid's shock victory over the 22-time Spanish champions has led to scathing criticism of Martino, whose position has come under increasing scrutiny.

However, the Argentine silenced his critics somewhat in midweek with a 2-1 victory over Premier League side Manchester City that saw the Blaugrana progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League 4-1 on aggregate.

Barca will be confident of building on that triumph against an Osasuna side that has lost on all of their last five visits to the Camp Nou in all competitions, conceding 21 goals.

Osasuna did hold Barca to a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture in October, but two consecutive Liga defeats have seen them pulled back into the battle against relegation. 

Javi Garcia's side are only three points clear of safety heading into the weekend's fixtures, with 11 games remaining, and could be pulled even further towards the drop with defeat at Barcelona.

However, despite Osasuna's current struggles, striker Oriol Riera, who spent six years as a youngster at Barcelona, is hopeful they can cause problems for their hosts.

"Playing against one of the top three sides is always very difficult, but we're going there keen to make things difficult for them," he told the club's official website.

"We will make their lives difficult. At least, that's what we’ll be trying to do."

Jonathan dos Santos (knee) and Isaac Cuenca (hamstring) are both out for Barcelona, and Martino may elect not to play defender Gerard Pique, who is on the verge of a suspension.

Pique is one booking away from a ban and will miss next weekend's Clasico clash with Real should he receive a yellow card on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Osasuna could welcome back defender Marc Bertran (hamstring), while Sisi (knee) and Miguel de las Cuevas (toe) are still on the sidelines.

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