Estadio Benito Vilammarín, Sevilla
Sunday, December 9 2012, 21:00 GMT
Barcelona will travel to Sevilla to face the surprise package of this year’s La Liga so far, Betis, on match-day 15. The Catalans have been in irresistible form, only drawing one of their 14 past league matches and holding a massive lead over their closest followers in the standings, but Betis haven’t too shabby either. They are at the 4th place currently and have beaten Barcelona’s arch-rivals Real Madrid at home just a few weeks ago.
This match will be without a doubt the blockbuster match of this week in La Liga, with many tipping Betis to continue their sensational campaign and halting Barcelona in their quest to win yet another league title.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Sevillian outfit has been nothing short of sensational so far in La Liga; not only do they currently sit in fourth place but they have played some of the most enjoyable football seen across the Spanish first division. Even Real Madrid fell to a 1-0 defeat at the Benito Vilammarín, and deservedly so as Betis created more than enough opportunities to score even more than one goal.
Pepe Mel has every player at his disposal and has vowed to take the game to Barcelona, maintaining the team’s identity of playing quick attacking football and pressing all over the pitch. While that is always a risky strategy against this Barcelona side, Betis showed last year that they can hold their own against the Catalans and they’ve only improved this year.
Betis should employ their traditional 4-3-3 formation, with Adrián in goal and Nacho, Dorado, Amaya and Chica in defence; Cañas, Salva Sevilla and Benat in midfield and an attacking trio of Molina, Campbell and the team’s leading scorer with 8 goals so far – Ruben Castro. This attacking trio has been on fire in recent weeks, with Campbell establishing himself as one of the best young players in La Liga and Ruben Castro as one of the best strikers and scorers in the division. Against Barcelona, Betis won’t enjoy as much time on the ball as they usually do and like, but their attacking trio will still be able to wreak havoc if given enough chances. A good result against the league leaders will only further cement Betis’s aspirations to a European spot at the end of the season.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Adrián(GK); Nacho, Dorado, Amaya, Chica; Salva Sevilla, Cañas, Beñat; Joel Campbell, Jorge Molina, Ruben Castro
Barcelona have been looking ominous so far in La Liga, with 40 points out of 42 possible, but not everything is good news in Catalunya. Lionel Messi had to leave the game against Benfica in midweek in a stretcher due to injury and, although he’s not as seriously injured as initially feared, it is still dubious whether he will be fully ready to take the pitch on Sunday and gun for Muller’s record again. Tito Vilanova has guaranteed that, if there is any risk at all that Messi might not be fully healed, he will not play against Betis.
The rest of the lineup is far from certain as well, what with all the quality options at Vilanova’s disposal and the rotational system he has been promoting. The only certainty is that Barcelona will play in their traditional 4-3-3 and remain faithful to their principles, looking to dominate the match through possession and open up gaps in the Betis defence. It is safe to assume that some of the players that were given rest in midweek, such as Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta among others will be included in the starting lineup on Sunday. Tito Vilanova is fully aware of this match’s very high level of difficulty and is sure to field the best lineup available, whether that includes Messi or not.
This match and the one at the Vicente Calderon in a few weeks time are two of the most difficult away matches left for Barcelona this season and wins there could pretty much secure the title for the Catalans, which Tito Vilanova is fully aware of.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Valdés(GK); Alba; Mascherano, Piqué, Alves; Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas; Iniesta, Pedro, Messi
Key Match Facts
- Lionel Messi has scored 13 goals on the road this season so far, more than any other team in La Liga except Betis with 14.
- Betis have won 4 and lost 3 matches at home, while Barcelona have a perfect away record (7 wins in 7 matches).
- Last season’s corresponding fixture ended 2-2, with Barcelona getting a late equalizer.
Player to Watch Out For
Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona)
Andrés Iniesta has been in spectacular form in recent weeks, really justifying his Ballon d’Or candidacy, and with Lionel Messi possibly out of the match he will be even more expected to carry Barcelona to victory in Sevilla.
Real Betis 2 – 2 FC Barcelona
Betis will continue their excellent campaign with a draw against Barcelona in a very open and entertaining match, with the goals coming in the second half.
Blast from the Past