?Barcelona travel south to Seville this weekend eager to shake off the surprise defeat to city rivals Espanyol midweek in the Copa del Rey.
Ernesto Valverde will be keen to show the first defeat of their domestic season hasn’t affected his side, who hold a commanding eight-point lead (with a game in hand) at the top of La Liga.
Betis, however, have won three of their last five, scoring 10 in those victories and will be far from a pushover for the travelling Catalans.
Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s clash.
Real Betis 2-2 Barcelona (May 2012)
May 12 2012 marked Pep Guardiola’s last La Liga match in charge of Barcelona, as his side drew 2-2 at the Benito Villamarin.
With the title already conceded to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid, there was little to play for other than the departing manager’s pride as Barcelona kept one eye on the upcoming Copa del Rey final.
The visitors were 1-0 and cruising thanks to an early Sergio Busquets header, before Dani Alves’ second half red card changed the dynamic of the match.
Veteran forward Ruben Castro took advantage and slotted home two of the neatest finishes you are ever likely to see on a football pitch to give the hosts the lead.
Messi hit the post from a late free kick, before Seydou Keita earned Guardiola a final point with another header. It was the Malian’s last contribution to the club.
Antonio Adan vs Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez is on the Pichichi hunt with seven goals in his last five outings in La Liga. The Uruguayan front man is making up for a slow start to the season and now only has teammate Lionel Messi ahead of him in the division’s scoring charts.
Former Real Madrid backup Antonio Adan is the man tasked with the unenviable task of keeping Suarez and his teammates at bay on Sunday.
Betis have not kept a clean sheet against Barça since 2002 and the forecast does not look especially likely to change, considering the hosts have the third worst goals conceded tally in La Liga.
Barcelona travel to Andalusia with something of shortage of options as Andres Iniesta and Paulinho both remain doubtful and Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembele remain definitively out. In addition, Philippe Coutinho has begun to train with the squad but Blaugrana fans will have remain patient to see their new £142m in action.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen is set to return in goal after handing over keeping duties to Jasper Cillessen midweek.
For the hosts, attacking threats Joel Campbell and Antonio Sanabria remain out. The latter was a revelation for Quique Setién’s side in the first half of the season, scoring seven in as many games between the end of September and November.
Centre back duo Zouhair Feddal and Aissa Mandi return from suspension, while Francis will continue to deputise for the injured Antonio Barragan at right back. Christian Tello is likely to start against his old club.
Potential Real Betis Starting Lineup: Adan; Francis, Feddal, Mandi, Durmisi; Guardado, Garcia, Ruiz; Joaquin, Leon, Tello
Potential Barcelona Starting Lineup: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Vermaelen, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Gomes, Paulinho; Messi, Suarez
After grabbing an improbable point at Camp Nou earlier this season and considering their own form, Betis have reasonable reason to feel optimistic going into this clash – particularly considering their illustrious visitor’s wounding midweek result and injury list.
However, the form of Barça’s peerless front two is still likely to be too much for Betis, who – despite their 3-2 win over Leganes – have won just one of their last five at the Benito Villamarin.
Channelling the spirit of the magnificent Seville derby victory two weeks prior will be key to getting anything out of this one for the hosts.
Prediction: Real Betis 1-3 Barcelona
?Philippe Coutinho has been handed the number 14 shirt at Barcelona, with club bosses allegedly reserving the number 7 jersey for the potential arrival of Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann.
The Brazilian midfielder, signed by ?Barca for an eye watering £142m fee, takes over the number previously worn by long serving Javier Mascherano, who is expected to leave for China in the coming days.
According to ?Fox Argentina though, he has not been handed the jersey vacated by Arda Turan’s departure due to the prospect of signing Antoine Griezmann.
The French striker will remain at Atletico until the end of the season, but is expected to be the subject of a transfer battle between Barca and ?Manchester United
Following the announcement of his retirement from the game on Tuesday, gaming giants, EA Sports have handed footballing legend Ronaldinho a prime ICON card.
The Brazilian icon has been given the card alongside previous
EA Sports got in on the act yesterday by announcing on their ?FIFA Twitter account that a prime ICON card was available from 6pm.
Ronaldinho made a total of 513 appearances throughout a career that spanned 20 years, scoring a total of 190 career goals. Teams he represented included Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan. He scored a total of 33 goals in 98 appearances for the Brazilian national team, and was part of the last Brazilian team to become world champions in 2002.
He posted a heartfelt message on ?Instagram following the announcement that he was hanging up his boots for good. In the message he said:
“I did what I most loved professionally for 20 years, and 10 as a basic training. I lived intensely this dream of children, every moment, trips, victories, defeats, the review, national anthem, the walk in the tunnel, dressing room, field entrance, the soccer shoes I used…
Now fans of FIFA will be able to remember how good the Brazilian was in his prime by adding his prime ICON card to their own Ultimate Team.
Lionel Messi has demanded the club let go of a Aleix Vidal after Espanyol ended the long unbeaten streak on Wednesday night, according to one Spanish report.
The loss was the Blaugrana’s first since the Supercopa de Espana defeat to Real Madrid in August.
Barcelona managed to come from two goals down against Real Sociedad at the Anoeta and rallied to score four in reply.
However, in the first leg of the Copa del Rey, rivals Espanyol inflicted Barcelona’s first defeat of the normal season after Oscar Melendo scored a late winner to stun the Catalans.
Despite missing a penalty, Messi was rumoured to be enraged with the shock defeat to the extent he demanded teammate Aleix Vidal be axed, according to notorious rumours site ?Diario Gol.
Manager Ernesto Valverde handed Vidal only his sixth start of the season, but the 28-year-old failed to impress on the wing.
Consequently, the Spanish outlet go on to say Vidal is no longer in Valverde’s future plans, but the player is ?attracting interest from former club Sevilla.
Barcelona have left been short with reliable options on the right after Ousmane Dembele suffered another setback to his fitness.
Of course, Barcelona do have a chance to redeem themselves in the second leg and can take motivation from the fact they hammered Espanyol at the Camp Nou earlier in the season.
?Sevilla are closing in on a deal to bring ?Barcelona full-back Aleix Vidal back to the club, but will not be allowed to loan the player unless they agree to an obligatory purchase in the summer.
Barcelona-based newspaper ??Sport? reports that Sevilla have proposed to pay Barcelona £8m for Vidal if and when they qualify for the 2018/19 Champions League. However, Barcelona will only accept if the transfer is obligatory regardless of Sevilla’s Champions League qualification.
Such a deal would see Vidal join Sevilla on loan for the remainder of the season before completing a permanent move in the summer.
Vidal has been clear about his desire to remain in Spain when he leaves the Camp Nou, and a return to Sevilla would surely appeal for personal reasons. He played 47 times for the Andalusian club before joining Barcelona for a fee of about
Vidal missed most of the second half of last season with an ankle injury and has played infrequently for the Blaugrana this season, with Sergio Roberto and Nelson Semedo often preferred at right-back. His only league goal of the season came in Barcelona’s 3-0 El Clasico win in December.
?Football Italia reports that Napoli are also interested in the player’s signature. Vidal has played his entire career in his homeland, with the exception of a season on loan at Greek side Panthrakikos in 2008/09, so it remains to be seen whether he would consider a move abroad.
(You may also be interested in – ?Gerard Pique Officially Agrees New Long-Term Contract With Barcelona Until June 2022)
Sevilla are currently sixth in La Liga and only three points below Real Madrid in fourth, but they have not won in five league games. They will face ?Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League.