Published March 14, 2014
Barcelona, Spain (SportsNetwork.com) - Barcelona has suffered two defeats in its last three La Liga games, but there is a sense of optimism surrounding the reigning champions as they approach their home encounter with Osasuna on Sunday.
The Catalans made easy work of Manchester City in their Champions League tie as a 2-1 win at Camp Nou on Wednesday saw the Spanish giants through to the quarterfinals on a 4-1 aggregate score.
Lionel Messi provided the opening goal of the second leg, and the Argentine believes that the victory can help the storied club turn over a new leaf as it looks to close a four-point deficit behind first-place Real Madrid.
"We were coming off two very serious setbacks away from home (at Real Sociedad and Valladolid)," Messi said. "But more so for the performances than for the results. Here we've returned to be the Barcelona that we want, that the fans expect."
Messi also dismissed any notion of the title chase being over. Barcelona enters the weekend in third place, but the club has 11 league matches to make up the difference, including a tilt with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu (March 23) and second-place Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou on the final match day of the La Liga season.
"I don't know if the criticism was exaggerated or not," he continued. "We're the first to be self-critical and we know we haven't done things well, we know when we've done badly. We lost the opportunity to continue being close to Real Madrid, but the league isn't lost whatsoever. There's a long way to go."
Osasuna's form has been great in recent weeks as the club has lost two straight in league play. That alone should provide the Catalans with enough incentive to stay within touching distance of the two Madrid-based clubs after they return to action on Saturday.
Real Madrid takes to the La Rosaleda pitch in Saturday's third fixture as it looks to extend its lead atop the table, while Atletico will follow with a home clash against an Espanyol side that has won three of its last five league contests.
Rounding out Saturday's action, Rayo Vallecano will look to secure a third successive victory when it welcomes Almeria to the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas while Celta Vigo, on two straight defeats, will head to the Cuidad de Valencia to square off with Levante.
On Sunday, last-place Real Betis will travel to the Martinez Valero to take on Elche, Sevilla will go for a fourth straight victory when it hosts Valladolid and Real Sociedad will look to strengthen its credentials for a top-four finish when it welcomes Valencia to the Anoeta.
Monday's lone fixture will pit fourth-place Athletic Bilbao up against fifth- place Villarreal as both clubs vie for the final Champions League qualification spot, while Friday's lone La Liga clash saw Getafe and Granada finish in a 3-3 draw.