El Sadar, Osasuna’s stadium, is a notoriously difficult place to play. Having said that, Real Madrid have only ever lost there once — a 2 - 1 defeat in 2009 — and have dropped points just four times there ever. They generally go into Pamplona prepared for the onslaught.
Random aside: Ferenc Puskas loved playing against Osasuna, scoring seven goals in seven games against them.
Still, this will be a difficult game. A banana peel if you will. But, given that Zidane rested so many key players mid-week, this is a game Real Madrid should be locked in to.
To help set this stage for Sunday’s clash, I chatted with Spanish football journalist and Osasuna fan Ignasi Torné.
Kiyan: Hey Ignasi. First of all, my condolences on Chimy Avila’s injury. He was a genuine joy to watch this season. How is your team coping without him?
Ignasi: Yes, for sure. Chimy has been our biggest star this season. He reflects the genuine character of Osasuna and its fans. As you say, it is a joy when a player like Chimy Ávila pushes and runs down the line to pressure the attack. Defenders always struggle against him. He’s the kind of player we like the most.
However, I want to define Osasuna as a team in terms of 11 men on the pitch. We believe in Jagoba Arrasate’s system, and the players are one solid block — like a machine. In Pamplona, it’s the team matters. We will be singing during the whole game, extremely passionate and with our team. It will be a party!
Kiyan: Real Madrid just rested a bunch of key players against Real Sociedad and will be ready to go at El Sadar. Does this worry you at all?
Ignasi: This can be the right decision for them, but Real Madrid has been knocked out of Copa del Rey at the Santiago Bernabéu, something that a few people expected. Initially at El Sadar, we don’t care about Real Madrid players — we know that it’s a different game when they face us.
When big teams come to town, it’s one of the away games that they team have marked on their calendar because they know that visiting Pamplona could very likely end in defeat.
Osasuna performs at its best against Real Madrid.
Kiyan: What should Real Madrid be worried about going into Sunday’s game?
Ignasi: I would say the 12th man. It’s contagious. El Sadar creates such a different atmosphere from the rest of La Liga. You see the players become very gallant, and their abilities increase more than in a regular game. The team is even more brave and fast.
Tactically, Osasuna is well organized in defence and we count with ballers on the midfield.
Unfortunately, Chimy is a significant loss for us, but in Rubén García and Oier, we believe.
Kiyan; What is your favourite memory of Osasuna vs Real Madrid games in previous years?
Ignasi: Juanfran’s winning goal for us in 2009 can be the most iconic and remembered in recent years because of what it meant. It helped Osasun avoid relegation on the last matchday.
Another highlight was when Walter Pandiani did The Shining look to Ronaldo, which extended into a confrontation after the final whistle following Osasun’a victory.
Kiyan: What is your prediction for the score, and how will Osasuna approach this game tactically?
Ignasi: Wowww. I’m not very good with predictions despite the fact that I predicted (with my friends, of course) Valencia, Real Madrid and Barça’s elimination from Copa del Rey. I would say a local victory, 2 - 1, because of the atmosphere.
I’m not the best analyst of the game, but what I can say is that Osasuna will face the game with a positive approach and high intensity while making the game uncomfortable for Real Madrid who will be trying to control the midfield. The wingers (especially Estupiñán) will be instrumental facilitating counterattacks.
Osasuna is a strong team, both tactically and physically, and do well in the air on set-pieces, which will be a key element of their game plan.