Despite a shocking 2-1 loss to Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday, which left Barcelona coach Xavi “annoyed,” the Blaugrana are still in prime position to win their first championship since 2019 thanks to their 11 points advantage going into this round. Barça has won just one of their previous five games (W1, D2, L2), which may be causing concerns about the team’s lack of motivation given their massive advantage at the top.
The hosts (11 allowed) are on pace to surpass the all times joint best defensive mark for a 38 matches La Liga (LL) season (18), despite giving up two goals to Rayo. The fact that Barcelona has only allowed two league goals there this season one from a penalty and the other an own goal could help their preparations.
However, Xavi doesn’t have fond memories of playing Real Betis because the 1-0 loss he suffered here last season was his first setback as Barça’s manager. Los Verdiblancos failed to close the gap in the race for UEFA Champions League qualifying following a goalless draw against Real Sociedad on the previous matchday, with coach Manuel Pellegrini acknowledging they are “fighting for the Europa League and everything else is a dream.”
That’s largely due to a terrible run of league results, where they have won just one of their previous five games (D1, L3). Pellegrini doesn’t exactly have a good past against Barcelona to draw from to make that right either; in his lengthy career, the Chilean has lost 23 of his 32 encounters with the club. To change that, Betis must perform better away from home, where they have lost both of their most recent two LL games and haven’t won in almost two months in any competition (D1, L3).
In the 2-1 victory over Rayo, Robert Lewandowski scored both the game winning goal and the consolation goal for Barça. The contributions of Sergio Canales may also be crucial because two of his four H2H goal involvements (G2, A2) have occurred in victories.
Both Ousmane Dembele and Andreas Christensen will be welcomed back into the Barcelona squad this weekend after recovering from their injuries, though they are set to start on the bench.
Sergio Busquets will also make a comeback after sitting out the match against Rayo due to suspension, although Sergi Roberto will struggle to recover before the season is out owing to a hamstring problem.
With Busquets expected to replace the injured Pedri and Frenkie de Jong in central midfield, Gavi is likely to be moved forward and Ferran Torres will move to the bench.
Additionally, there might be a change at the back, with Alejandro Balde possibly moving to right back and Jordi Alba joining the squad to take the place of Marcos Alonso.
Victor Ruiz, Juanmi, Youssouf Sabaly, and Nabil Fekir are all anticipated to be sidelined for Real Betis, who had four players missing in action against Real Sociedad.
Luiz Henrique and Borja Iglesias are set to start once again, but head coach Manuel Pellegrini is anticipated to make a few changes to the lineup.
To provide room for Iglesias to lead the line, William Carvalho would move into a deeper midfield position, and Ayoze Perez would go to the wide space if Andres Guardado and Rodri were to withdraw.
Barcelona possible starting lineup
Ter Stegen, Balde, Kounde, Araujo, Alba, F de Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Raphinha, Lewandowski and Gavi.
Real Betis possible starting lineup
Silva, Ruibal, Felipe, Pezzella, Miranda, Rodriguez, Carvalho, Perez, Canales, Henrique and Iglesias.
We predict: Barcelona 3-1 Real Betis
Real Betis have a strong chance of winning on Saturday, but Barcelona will be motivated to make up for their defeat at Rayo. It wouldn’t be shocking if the points were split in this game, but we just have a feeling that Xavi’s team will find a way to secure a sizable three points.