Real Betis vs Barcelona Match Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battle, Team News & More
?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