preview | 2017-01-28
Match Preview - La Liga Round 20 - Bétis vs Barcelona
Barça faces Bétis in yet another league decider match away from the Camp Nou
Barcelona return to La Liga action on Sunday when they travel to Andalusia to take on Real Betis. A win would see Barça go top of La Liga, for a few hours at least, with Real Madrid and Sevilla not in action until later on Sunday.
Real Betis come into this weekend’s games 13th in La Liga with 22 points from their 19 games. They are nine points clear of the relegation zone and nine behind Villarreal in sixth place so at the moment it looks like they will have to make do with a mid table finish but the team will be aware that a good run could see them move up the table but similarly a bad run could have them looking over their shoulder in the months ahead. They are currently in the middle of a bad run with just one win in their last five games but they will be confident of turning that around before too long. Los Verdiblancos have a good home record with 16 of their 22 points in the league coming at Estadio Benito Villamarín. In their last six home games they have won four and drew two so they will undoubtedly prove to be difficult opposition for Barcelona.
Víctor Sánchez faces a few selection issues with a lengthy list of players set to miss out. Felipe Gutiérrez, Antonio Sanabria, Joaquín, Darko Brasanac, José Carlos and Jonas Martin are all unlikely to be involved due to injury. While all six have been involved at various points this season it is Joaquín who will be missed the most as the veteran has still been one of Betis’ best players this season. Joaquín (three goals, four assists) and Rubén Castro (eight goals, two assists) have been the most important attacking players for this Betis team despite both being 35 years old now. They do have some talented younger players such as Dani Ceballos but his output hasn’t been anywhere near the level of his veteran teammates.
Barcelona come into the game in good form having won their last five matches in all competitions. In that run they have scored 18 goals and the team really look to have turned a corner after a difficult start to 2017. Lionel Messi has really turned it on over the last few weeks and Luis Suárez has started to look like the best striker in the world again after a run of bad form where he was largely anonymous during games. Neymar has also returned to form with three goals in his last four games and suddenly Barcelona are starting to look like the team we know they can be.
The biggest problem Luis Enrique faces at the moment is a growing injury list. Sergio Busquets and Andrés Iniesta are still injured and Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Sergi Roberto and Rafinha are all listed as doubtful for the trip to Seville. At the moment Barcelona are dealing quite well with the injuries but at this stage of the season games come quickly and their importance becomes magnified as one bad result can derail a season. If Barcelona can ride out the next few weeks without any slip ups they will be well placed going into the business end of the season as Busquets and Iniesta will undoubtedly play a vital part in the run in and their injuries should see them refreshed for what promises to be a busy four months.
This is only Barcelona’s 20th game of the season which means we are only halfway through the league campaign so there are a lot of games to play but Real Madrid have built a lead and Barcça know they need to keep winning to put pressure on Madrid. Real were knocked out of the Copa del Rey during the week by Celta de Vigo so they will be able to enjoy midweeks off over the next two weeks while Barcelona go into what promises to be two wars with Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid. Atlético have knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League twice in the last three seasons so Barça will certainly not underestimate them and it will be interesting to see if Lucho decides to rest any of his starters on Sunday ahead of the trip to Madrid next Wednesday night.
Barcelona will be strong favourites to win on Sunday and it would be a shock if they fail to do so. That said Real Betis have been good at home this season and their fans will create an intimidating atmosphere when the defending champions come to town. Recent history has been good to Barça in this fixture with seven consecutive wins, including three in a row in Seville. With Messi in the form he has been recently and Suárez back among the goals it should be another three points for Barcelona who would then find themselves in familiar territory at the top of La Liga once again.
Sunday’s game will be refereed by Hernández Hernández. Barcelona have won four and lost one of their last five with Hernández as referee. In those five he has booked seven Barça players, gave them one penalty and awarded one against them. In his last five games in charge of Real Betis they have drew two and lost three. He has shown 16 Betis players yellow cards and awarded them two penalties.
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WRITTEN BY: Gerry Johnston
Gerry Johnston is a 31 year old Civil Servant from County Antrim, Ireland. Gerry has been writing about football for various websites since Euro 2012 and he has been a Barcelona fan since the mid 90s.