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FC Barcelona – Real Betis: Match Preview

Frenkie de Jong winning a header against Sergio Canales in the game against Real Betis two years ago / AFP
Frenkie de Jong winning a header against Sergio Canales in the game against Real Betis two years ago / AFP

FC Barcelona – Real Betis has been an exciting fixture in recent years. This season, Betis finds itself above Barça in the La Liga table after a great run as Barça looks to continue its unbeaten run under Xavi.

After a successful Ballon d’Or ceremony, FC Barcelona returns to the hard reality of La Liga: seventh place with only 6 wins in 14 games. Pedri might have won the Kopa Trophy for being the best youngster in the world, but he won’t be available to face Real Betis, who find themselves in fifth place after a great run of four wins in a row.

Real Betis Balompié, whose colours connect them to Scottish club Celtic, lost the derby of Seville about a month ago. The red side of the derby, historically for the higher middle class, beat the green and whites (historically open to all classes and origins) 0-2 at the Estadio Benito Villamarín. Former Barça player Hector Bellerin thought he’d scored, but his goal was ruled after a VAR check. Shortly after, he scored in his own goal.

Other former FC Barcelona players who are now at Betis include Claudio Bravo, Martín Montoya, Juan Miranda, Marc Bartra and Cristian Tello. Bartra had a relatively successful spell at his boyhood club, but always had some of the worlds best centre-backs ahead of him. He left for Dortmund and returned home to Spain later, but is still in touch with some of his teammates from his time in Barcelona. Unlike Montoya, Miranda and Tello, who were all mostly on the bench, Claudio Bravo will feel like he has something to prove. The goalkeeper protected Barça’s goal for some great seasons, but when Marc-André Ter Stegen was bought, he lost the battle for being the main goalie and the Chilean captain was sold to Manchester City.

Just like in any other game this season, FC Barcelona will have to miss seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Leo Messi. The Argentinian magician was hugely successful in games against Real Betis, scoring six times in the last five games between the teams. The 1-4 win in 2019 is definitely worth mentioning as it was one of the best games of the best player ever. After opening the scoring with a free-kick beautifully placed in the top left corner, Messi added a second after a genius Luis Suárez backheel assist. Later in the game, Suárez picked up the ball on the midway line and started running. He went past three opponents and calmly finished for the 0-3. Betis talent Loren Morón scored the 1-3, but his goal was worthy of being a match-winner. However, the best was yet to come. Just before the end of the game, Messi chipped the goalkeeper from the edge of the box and received a standing ovation from the Real Betis fans.

In the last 18 times these two teams have faced each other, Barça only lost once: a spectacular 3-4 at the Camp Nou in 2018. Quique Setién was in charge of Real Betis, and this performance was one of the reasons he was later appointed at FC Barcelona.

Although Real Betis now have a busy schedule combining La Liga with the Europa League, they’re still doing well in La Liga. Willian José and Nabil Fekir are already used to scoring against Barça. Another player to focus on is Juanmi, who recently scored a hattrick against Levante. Borja Iglesias has also been sharp in front of goal this season, whether being named in the starting lineup or coming on as a substitute.

Barça has been unbeaten since Xavi Hernández took charge of the team. His team struggled to find the back of the net in the first two games, but managed to beat Villarreal 1-3 thanks to goals by Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong and Philippe Coutinho. Xavi has said that both Sergiño Dest and Ousmane Dembélé are 100% fit and could play tomorrow. Ansu Fati, Pedri and Sergi Roberto are some of the players missing out due to injuries.

FC Barcelona will look to get three vital points against Manuel Pellegrini’s men on Saturday at 16:15 local time.

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