Sports Mole previews Saturday’s La Liga clash between Barcelona and Real Betis, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Barcelona will be looking to make it three La Liga victories in a row under new head coach Xavi when they welcome Real Betis to Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon.
The Catalan giants will enter the contest off the back of a 3-1 victory at Villarreal last weekend, while Betis were in Copa del Rey action on Wednesday, recording a 4-0 win over CFI Alicante.
Xavi has made a positive impression since taking charge of Barcelona last month, with the Spaniard winning two and drawing one of his three matches at the helm, including back-to-back league successes over Espanyol and Villarreal.
The Catalan giants were held to a 0-0 draw by Benfica in the Champions League on November 23, though, meaning that they need to beat Bayern Munich on December 8 to ensure that they claim second spot in Group E and a spot in the knockout round of the competition.
Barcelona have won six, drawn five and lost three of their 14 league matches this season to collect 23 points, which has left them in seventh position in the table ahead of the next set of fixtures in Spain’s top flight.
A title challenge is unlikely this season, as they already trail leaders Real Madrid by 13 points, but the La Liga giants are only five points off fourth-placed Sevilla, and it would be a huge surprise to see them outside of the top four next May, even considering their recent problems.
Barcelona have won each of their last five league games against Betis, including a 5-2 victory in the corresponding match at Camp Nou last term.
Betis, meanwhile, will enter the contest off the back of a 4-0 win over CFI Alicante in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, which saw them book their spot in the second round of the competition.
Manuel Pellegrini‘s side have now been victorious in each of their last four matches, including a 2-0 success over Ferencvaros in the Europa League on November 25, which saw them book their spot in the next round of the European competition with a game to spare .
Betis have also won their last two in La Liga, including a 3-1 success over Levante last weekend, which has left them in fifth position in the table, just a point behind fourth-placed Sevilla.
The Green and Whites have been impressive in the final third this season, scoring 25 times in 15 matches, with only Atletico Madrid (26) and Real Madrid (35) netting more in Spain’s top flight this term.
Los Verdiblancos finished sixth in La Liga last season and will certainly have their eye on a top-four finish, with Pellegrini putting together an excellent squad at Estadio Benito Villamarin.
Barcelona La Liga form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Real Betis La Liga form:
Real Betis form (all competitions):
Barcelona will again be without the services of Martin Braithwaite, Ansu Fati, Pedri, Sergio Roberto and Sergio Aguero for this weekend’s La Liga contest.
Jordi Albathough, is expected to recover from the muscular problem that forced him to leave the field against Villarreal in the league last time out.
Ousmane Dembele could now be considered for a start, having overcome a hamstring problem, and the Frenchman may join Memphis Depay and Gavi in the final third of the field.
Eric Garcia should again feature at right-back, meanwhile, with the Spaniard set to keep out the likes of Oscar Mingueza and Sergino Dest.
As for Betis, Hector Bellerin is available after suspension, but Nabil Fekir will serve a ban of his own, with the Frenchman unavailable for selection at Camp Nou.
Youssouf Sabaly and Claudio Bravo will also miss out through injury, while Martin Montoya is a doubt, meaning that Pellegrini has far from a full complement of players for this contest.
Fekir’s absence will open the door for Rodri to feature in an attacking area alongside Sergio Canales and Juanmiwhile Willian Jose is expected to lead the line for the visitors.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Garcia, Araujo, Pique, Alba; F de Jong, Busquets, Nico; Dembele, Memphis, Gavi
Real Betis possible starting lineup:
Silva; Bellerin, Pezzella, Ruiz, Moreno; Rodriguez, Guardado; Canales, Rodri, Juanmi; Willian Jose
We say: Barcelona 2-1 Real Betis
This is a very, very difficult match for Barcelona against a talented Betis outfit, and it would not be a surprise to see a draw or an away victory on Saturday afternoon. Xavi’s team were impressive at Villarreal last weekend, though, and we are expecting them to pick up another important three points.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5: data