Sports Mole provides the team news, predicted lineups and a full match preview of Barcelona’s home La Liga game with Real Betis.
The Spanish champions have been victorious in their last three to rise to the summit, and they will fancy their chances of overcoming a Betis side that have lost three of their last four in Spain’s top flight.
Seven wins, three draws and one defeat – that is Barcelona’s record after 11 matches of the 2018-19 La Liga campaign. A total of 24 points is enough to see them lead the division at this stage, and their closest challengers are Catalan rivals Espanyol, who sit three points behind entering matchday 12 in Spain’s top flight.
It would be fair to say that Barcelona were not at their free-flowing best in the early weeks of the campaign, but the Spanish champions have won their last three in La Liga by hitting a four, a five and a three.
Indeed, a 4-2 success over Sevilla on October 20 took them to the top of the pile, before thumping Real Madrid 5-1 in El Clasico. The winning run continued away to Rayo Vallecano last weekend, although they needed two late goals to overcome the capital outfit on their own patch.
Barcelona’s lead over sixth-placed Real is seven points, while they are four points clear of fourth-placed Atletico Madrid. It is difficult to imagine that the likes of Espanyol and Sevilla will make a title challenge this season, which means that Ernesto Valverde‘s side are in a strong position at the summit.
That said, Barcelona have been held twice in La Liga at Camp Nou this season, and they will enter this weekend’s match off the back of a draw having shared the points with Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday night. The point, though, was enough to see them advance to the knockout round of the competition.
In terms of the league, Valverde’s team have the small matter of a trip to Atletico after the international break, and will also welcome a dangerous Villarreal towards the start of November.
Barcelona have certainly enjoyed their recent meetings with Betis, however, and in truth, it would be a huge surprise if the Catalan giants did not continue their winning run in the league on Sunday night.
Recent form: LDDWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWD
Three wins, four draws and four defeats have brought Betis 13 points from their 11 matches this season. There is no getting away from the fact that it has been a disappointing start, with the Seville outfit occupying 14th position, and they will enter the clash with Barcelona just four points outside of the relegation zone.
Betis were the entertainers in La Liga last season, but they have only scored eight times in their 11 league games this term and will enter this match having lost three of their last four in Spain’s top flight.
Indeed, Quique Setien‘s side last collected all three points at home to Leganes at the end of September. Since then, they have lost to Atletico, Real Valladolid and Getafe, but did pick up a point at home to Celta Vigo last time out.
Betis finished sixth in La Liga last season, but it does look like they will struggle to match that this term. Indeed, they could be pulled into a relegation battle if performances do not improve, but it is very difficult to see them collecting all three points from Camp Nou this weekend.
Not since March 2008 have Betis beaten Barcelona in La Liga, and that 3-2 success came in Seville. The Catalan giants put seven unanswered goals past Betis in their two league fixtures last season, with a 5-0 success on the road following a 2-0 victory at Camp Nou.
Betis will bring a three-game unbeaten run into this match, however, having beaten Racing Santander in the Copa del Rey, in addition to drawing 1-1 at home to AC Milan in the Europa League on Thursday night. What’s more, Barcelona have actually shipped 14 goals in their 11 league games this term.
Recent form: WWLLLD
Recent form (all competitions): LWLWDD
Lionel Messi is in contention to start for Barcelona having recovered from a forearm fracture, although it seems more likely that the Argentine will be named on the bench, with the Catalan giants airing on the side of caution.
That said, news that Philippe Coutinho will miss the next few weeks with a hamstring problem means that Barcelona are a touch light in attack.
Malcom is also an option for the Catalan giants, having come off the bench to score against Inter in the Champions League earlier this week.
Clement Lenglet will again start alongside Gerard Pique at centre-back with Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen both unavailable, but there could be a change at right-back with Nelson Semedo in line to make the XI.
As for Betis, experienced midfielder Javi Garcia will miss out with a muscular problem, but head coach Setien has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the clash at Camp Nou.
Sidnei and Andres Guardado will return to the team having been named on the bench against Milan, while William Carvalho and on-loan Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Giovani Lo Celso will also start for the visitors.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Arthur; Dembele, L Suarez, Rafinha
Real Betis possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Mandi, Bartra, Sidnei; Firpo, Guardado, Carvalho, Guerrero; Lo Celso, Moron, Canales
Head To Head
As mentioned above, Barcelona won the reverse match 2-0 last season, and also recorded a 5-0 victory when they travelled to Betis in January.
Betis have not actually beaten Barcelona in the league since March 2008, with the Catalan giants winning nine of the last 10 league meetings.
The last time that Betis prevented Barcelona from winning at Camp Nou was in May 2007.
We say: Barcelona 3-1 Real Betis
Betis will not exactly travel to Barcelona in the best of form, and although we fancy the visitors to score, the hosts will have too much on the night. Comfortable Barcelona win.