FC Barcelona hosts Real Betis at Camp Nou on Saturday in Matchday 16 of the La Liga Santander. The hosts are on a winning spree having won the last two league matches. The same goes for the Betis side who have been very impressive this season. A win here for either side might not see a significant movement in the points table but it is the momentum from the game which will be of utmost importance.
Why should you be watching?
We know for a fact that the matches between the two sides have always been a crowd entertainer. It has involved a lot of goals from both sides. The last clean sheet any of the team managed was way back in the 2017-18 season when Barcelona beat Betis at their home 5-0. Since then, in the three seasons that followed, there have been 6 goals on average every outing between the two teams. It has been a slow start to the season for FC Barcelona, courtesy of which they find themselves at 7th position in the table.
On the other hand, Real Betis have looked a formidable side more often than not. As such, this game becomes more significant for the home side and thus they would be looking to come out with all 3 points. The visitors, on the other hand, will look forward to solidifying their position in the top 5 of the table. Whatever the outcome, this game is certainly not worth missing.
Barcelona comes on the back of a not-so-convincing yet crucial away victory 3-1 against Villarreal. Things have not gone well for the home team since the start of the season. It all started with the exit of Lionel Messi. The team has lacked goals at crucial moments this season. Injuries are not helping either. However, the arrival of Xavi has clearly provided the much-needed impetus to the team. They have won back-to-back league games under Xavi although the real challenge awaits them in Champions League against Bayern midweek where a slip can see them slip to Europa League.
With the hosts currently outside of the top 4, they need to pull a string of results in their favor to make it to the Champions League qualifications. Barcelona has been really vulnerable at the back and they will surely be put to test in this fixture. A victory here will surely boost their confidence ahead of the Bayern game and Xavi will not expect anything less from his side.
Recent Form (La-Liga): WWDDL
The visitors are in a good form coming into this game. They thrashed CFI Alicante 4-0 in Copa Del Rey midweek and comfortably beat Levante 3-1 last weekend in La Liga. They find themselves at 5th position just 1 point off the top 4. A positive result here might see them finish in the top 4 in the night. The main concern for coach Manuel Pellegrini will be the defensive fragilities of the team. They have just managed to keep 1 clean sheet in their last 6 fixtures. However, they have been very lethal in front of the goal to make up for defensive mistakes.
They have scored 25 goals so far and are only behind Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in this department. It will be a stellar face-off for Betis’ backline with Barcelona’s front 3 with Dembele expecting to start. If the defense is able to keep out the Barca attackers for most of the time, Betis might go all the way through and claim an unexpected victory.
Recent Form (La-Liga): WWLLW
Barcelona has been the dominant side in La Liga the past few encounters against Real Betis. They have won each of their last 5 matches. The last game ended 3-2 with the Catalan side leaving it late till the 87th minute when Trincao scored the 3rd goal for FC Barcelona ensuring all 3 points.
The home side will be expected to make some changes to the team that defeated Villarreal last weekend. Xavi will be eyeing the clash against Bayern midweek. Ter Stegen will continue in goal. Ronald Araujo and Gerard Pique will form the center-back partnership. Eric Garcia played as a makeshift right back in the previous encounter and is likely to make way for a fully-fit Oscar Mingueza. Alba limped off against Villarreal and though he is expected to be fit, Xavi might not risk him. As such Dest might fill the left-back position. The midfield is expected to be the same with Nico alongside Busquets and De Jong. Dembele might be given the start with Gavi on the wings and Memphis Depay through the middle.
Formation : 4-3-3
GK: Ter Stegen
DEFENCE: Sergino Dest, Pique, Ronald Araujo, Mingueza
MIDFIELD: Nico, Sergio Busquets, De Jong
ATTACK: Dembele, Memphis Depay, Gavi
A few changes are bound to happen to the side that faced Alicante mid-week. Claudio Bravo is still injured and hence Rui Silva will start between the sticks. We might see the return of German Pezzella alongside Victor Ruiz forming the center-back partnership. Hector Bellerin is also expected to start at right-back with Moreno continuing at left-back. The midfield will continue with the likes of Andres Guardado with Rodriguez occupying the holding midfielder positions. Nabil Fekir is a notable absentee for this clash as he is serving a suspension. As such, Rodri might get the nod to start with Juanmi and Canales. Willian Jose will be the lone striker upfront.
Formation : 4-2-3-1
DEFENCE: Moreno, Victor Ruiz, Pezzella, Hector Bellerin
MIDFIELD: Guido Rodriguez, Guadrado, Juanmi, Rodri, Sergio Canales
ATTACK: Willian Jose
Players to Watch Out For
Gavi has been instrumental since his debut. He has continuously shown that he has what it takes to reach the top. He doesn’t hesitate to make a tackle and take on the opposition defense when required. Once again, he will be tasked with holding the possession in the final third of the pitch. He is very good both on the ball and off the ball and might come in handy against a Betis side which maintains a high line.
The Frenchman is finally fully fit. Xavi emphasized the importance of Dembele in his team. Now that he is in the team again and expected to start, he will be looking to make a mark. He can shift wings when needed and his pace will surely trouble the opposition. He can take on any defender on his day and will be the key to breaking a formidable-looking Betis defense.
The no. 7 has become really influential for the away time as the season has progressed. He is now a guaranteed starter for Pellegrini’s team. Fresh from a hat-trick in the previous game, he has notched up 8 goals and added 1 assist to his name so far. He is really good at holding the ball upfront and drifting into vacant areas in the wings. Juanmi is the biggest threat for the visitors and he will once again be pivotal in his team’s chances.
The 28-year old Argentine has improved game after game. He has become an expert in dictating the play for Real Betis. The responsibility of closing the spaces between the team’s midfield and defense will be on his capable shoulders. He is the bridge that links defense with attack for Betis. Against a high pressing Barcelona, it will be his job to move the ball quickly during counter-attacks.
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He has been in an up-down form this season. He has been gaining a form of late and has scored 4 goals in the last 4 games. He has not been that lethal in front of goal but he has delivered when it mattered. His off-the-ball movement along with his physicality in duels will be of utility against a Betis side which likes to maintain a high line. Once again, he will be expected to get his name on the score sheet and seal the victory for the hosts.
The Brazilian striker is in decent form this season. He has already scored 5 goals and assisted another 2 in 12 matches so far. He’s 6’2″ height provides him an advantage in aerial duels as well. Particularly against a Barcelona side which is vulnerable to set pieces, he might be useful in breaking the deadlock for the visitors.
We can’t say for sure who will come out on top in this fixture but what we can guarantee is it will be a goal-galore. And if past records are anything to go by, we will be entertained till the final whistle. Will Xavi make it a hat-trick of victories in La Liga or will Pellegrini’s side tighten their grip in the top 6 remains to be seen? Nevertheless, it will be a gripping game, and don’t rule out a late decisive strike from either of the teams.
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